On the 14th of October 2020, Dr. Yasmine Motarjemi (whistleblower and former Head of Food Safety at Nestlé) gave her presentation during the first seminar of the Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics Blog’s End-of-Year Seminar Series 2020 entitled “CSR, Whistleblowing and Human Rights” and organized by Dr. Costantino Grasso, Dr. Dawn Carpenter, and Dr. Luca d’Ambrosio. The series has been organised in partnership with the Centre for Financial and Corporate Integrity (CFCI) of Coventry University and the EU-funded research project VIRTEU (Vat fraud: Interdisciplinary Research on Tax crimes in the European Union – Grant Agreement no: 878619).
In her terrific talk, Dr. Yasmine Motarjemi discussed whistleblowing in the context of “Labour Law, corporate culture and risk management in Multinational Enterprises.”
The career path of Dr. Yasmine Motarjemi spanned the World Health Organization in Geneva where she worked for a full decade for the prevention of foodborne illnesses before joining Nestlé as the corporate food safety manager in the year 2000. Since 2010 she has turned into a fervent advocate of whistleblowing and human rights. She graduated from the University of Languedoc, France, later at the University of Lund, Sweden, where she received a doctoral degree in Food Engineering. She is the author or editor of numerous peer-reviewed articles, books, training manuals and other publications among which the Encyclopedia on Food Safety. In 2019, Dr. Motarjemi was awarded the GUE/NGL Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information.
Summary of the Seminar (by Stephen Holden)
Dr. Yasmine Motarjemi, a public health advocate and a leading expert in food safety standards who previously held a senior role in the World Health Organization before joining Nestlé in 2000, became a whistleblower after her boss in the company’s quality management department side-lined because she repeatedly raised concerns about the handling of food safety incidents and internal processes.
During the seminar, Dr. Motarjemi considered freedom of speech and freedom of opinion rights within the context of the corporate environment, through the lens of her own experiences of whistleblowing, and the lack of whistleblower protections or other recourse for actions of retribution.
Beginning by considering the regulatory responsibilities for corporations based in Switzerland, and their responsibilities for ensuring corporations are compliant with meeting international standards, Dr. Motarjemi explored the role of the whistleblower in highlighting wrongdoing and the lack of protection afforded by the Swiss legislative and judicial system that facilitates intimidation and retribution towards those who would disclose illegality or other wrongdoing.
By providing information on food safety standards failures, Dr. Motarjemi contextualized the cultural problems within corporations – namely an unwillingness to act to prevent harm and injury through as this would provide financial and reputational damage, and the willingness of the Swiss state to overwhelmingly support corporations over the rights of the individual, and whistleblowers.
5 thoughts on “Dr. Yasmine Motarjemi – Whistleblowing, Labour Law, corporate culture and risk management in Multinational Enterprises (video)”
Dr. Yasmine Motarjemi excellently laid out the issues of corporate recklessness and irresponsibility, the lack of whistleblowing protections and lax labor laws of Switzerland and how swiss-based multi-national enterprises may be taking advantage of these. If action is not taken urgently, harm may continue to be done their employees’ careers, livelihoods as well as their mental and overall health. There may also be negative impact on the communities where these corporations are based or where they trade, which in turn may then affect trust in their operational practices and profit-making capabilities. The law, ethics, corporate governance and social responsibility considerations must be at the forefront of the urgent reformatory actions required in Switzerland and its MNEs.
Thank you very much for your comment which re-emphasizes the message of my presentation. I am very pleased to see that you recognise the importance of the subject. I would appreciate it if you could kindly spread the message through seminars and conferences. There is a need for increased understanding of the root of the problems. However, understanding is not enough, we also need to seek ways to sanction companies who do not comply. So, the question of how to ensure that companies comply, i.e. walk the talk, is still a challenge for the future.
Hello, My Name Saida from the Faculty of the Law Masters, Islamic University of Indonesia, In this regard, I strongly agree with the opinion expressed by the speaker, namely Dr. Yasmine Montarjemi, who briefly concluded Stephen Holden, that whistleblowing must have freedom of opinion and opinion, and currently, the whistleblower situation itself is still less protected, by taking advantage of the reporter’s role in making mistakes, and cultural issues in the company are very important. in protecting the environment, such as finances and reputation. In Indonesia, although there are no laws and regulations governing WBS, Indonesia has several laws and regulations that partly report reporting and protection of whistleblowers, including:
• Law Number 28 Year 1999 regarding State Administration that is Clean and Free from Corruption, Collusion, and Nepotism; Article 9
• Law Number 31 Year 1999 concerning Eradication of Corruption Crime Article 31 and Article 41 paragraph (2) letter e.
• Law Number 15 Year 2002 in conjunction with Law Number 25 Year 2003 concerning the Crime of Money Laundering Articles 39 to 43;
• Law Number 13 Year 2003 concerning Manpower, article 153 paragraph (1) letter I and article 158 paragraph (1) letter i
• Law No.7 of 2006 concerning the Ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), Article 33 UNCAC;
• Law Number 13 Year 2006 concerning Protection of Witnesses and Victims of article 10 paragraph 1;
• Government Regulation No.71 of 2000 concerning Procedures for Implementing Community Participation and Giving Awards in the Prevention and Eradication of Corruption Article 6;
• PP No.57 of 2003 concerning Special Protection Procedures for Reporters and Witnesses to the Crime of Money Laundering.
• Chief of Police Regulation Number 17 of 2005 concerning Special Protection Procedures for Reporters and Witnesses to the Crime of Money Laundering.
In essence, the practice of whistleblower needs to be emphasized more in its implementation in protecting when reporting company delinquency/crime so as not to cause losses that have an impact on other communities.
Dear Saida, please find below the answer from Dr. Yasmine Montarjemi. She sent it to me via email.
“Thank you very much for your comment. I know Indonesia well, as I used to teach food safety and nutrition there. Regarding your comments, of course, I agree with your comments. I note that you have many laws that can be used in various sectors. However, there is a need for streamlining as well as consolidating the elements related to whistleblowing. In the process, there is a need for searching for loopholes. That is checking that the laws cover all sectors adequately, they are relevant and applicable, are also efficient in promoting compliance. Equally important that employees and employers have the same understanding and are well trained in what needs to be done when laws are violated. Laws are not sufficient, we need an independent structure that can receive and advise employees or individuals who notice wrongdoings. Surveillance of the system can also provide information on the weakness of laws and how these could be strengthened. In other words, we need an entire system of whistleblowing where laws are part of it. “
Thank you very much for the responses, nice to know if you as to teach food safety and nutrition here. Regarding your responses, of course, I agree with yours as well, thank you, I hope Indonesia and the world can make sufficient law for whistleblowers.