Whistleblowing Hotline | Case Studies | BAE Systems

Case Study: BAE Systems

bae worker

The client

BAE Systems is a global defence, security and aerospace company headquartered in London, United Kingdom and with operations worldwide. It is among the world’s largest defence contractors and employs over 83,000 people around the world.

BAE face a range of risks in the markets that they operate in, and therefore made it difficult to govern, these risks included:

  • Brand and reputation management
  • Regulatory and legislative compliance
  • Human rights and working practices
  • Information security and data integrity
  • Supply chain selection and management
  • Partnering, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions
  • International stakeholder pressure

The challenge

BAE recognised the need to provide a effective whistleblowing hotline tool.

BAE employees have always been encouraged to go to their manager when they have an issue, BAE  recognised the need, and value, of having an independent hotline for reporting misconduct.

They also felt that gaining the trust of an employee to use such a service that was described as confidential was more likely if it were managed externally to the Company.


For a company with the reach of BAE Systems, global and robust  risk management through planning is critical.

They needed a transparent, secure and reliable system with comprehensive reporting functionality.

This tool needed to be able to support audit reports, the Ethics Review Committee and Board reporting, as well as auditable data they could publish in their Corporate Responsibility/Annual reports.

They also wanted a solution that was accessible to employees, joint ventures, third party suppliers, customers and other external stakeholders.

They wanted a service where those accessing it would speak to a person rather than to an automated service and needed high-quality 24/7 translation services, in a multitude of languages.

The solution

BAE Systems approached Expolink in 2003 for a global whistleblowing hotline service and worked closely with Expolink’s corporate governance team on the implementation plan.

Expolink guided them through EU and member state data privacy and protection requirements, guidance that has continued throughout service provision as that legislation has developed over time.

It was clear that a bespoke whistleblowing hotline was needed to be carefully designed at the consultation stage.

BAE Systems opted to implement one whistleblowing hotline (known as their Ethics Helpline) to cover all kinds of reporting.

The only reporting that was restricted was information that would fall under the Official Secrets Act. Due to the global nature of their operations they chose to offer their service users phone reporting with a full range of 300 languages for translation services.

An additional email service is managed internally and in parallel with phone-reporting.

Considerations were made to address any data protection or reporting restrictions in all territories. With such widespread operations it was also vital that they had a comprehensive strategy for communicating the service.


Ethics reporting software

On the success of the helpline, and a need to improve its  report management system, BAE Systems approached Expolink in 2011 to implement a bespoke incident and case management system.

This would act as a linkup between the Helpline reporting system and a log for all internal incidents that were reported directly to the ethics office.

The system needed to support the capture and management of all reports, this system would enable a truly robust and efficient venture  for BAE service users. It also enables up-to-date and progressive understanding of their [case management] performance, as well as enabling trends analysis and extraction of reliable statistics.

The software enables the logging of incidents across the business from several sources such as e-mail, walk-ins, direct phone calls, letters and Helpline calls.

Expolink’s Project Managers facilitated on-site training for BAE Systems’ ethics office management staff. BAE manages the day-to-day monitoring of all reports to the ethics office. Ethics Officers have responsibility for ensuring that all reports from within their business are thoroughly investigated.

All callers to the ethics office receive feedback and anonymous reports received via Expolink are dealt with no differently, with each report having its own discrete record in the system. As well as their Code of Conduct, BAE Systems communicates the helpline service and, more importantly, how it works to their staff. This latter item is seen as key to building employee confidence and trust in using the service.


How BAE Systems and Expolink worked together to implement the service

Expolink and BAE Systems worked closely to ensure a seamless roll out. BAE Systems wanted a system that used their language and terminology as much as possible, and Expolink matched it wherever it could be.

They have said that they particularly like the simplicity of the case management system, whilst it has the flexibility to be more complex as their own experience grows and needs change.

Expolink set up managed servers and fully PEN tested them to meet BAE Systems’ very high data security requirements.

Their existing policies, processes and procedures were also analysed and reviewed to ensure the software was configured to minimise the impact of change. With such a large and complex project, a phased roll-out was agreed to be the optimum solution.

This meant both parties could retain control and catch and resolve any issues quickly. They could also ensure all training and user acceptance issues were dealt with as they arose.


“BAE continue to work with Expolink because we know we can trust them to manage helpline calls in an expedient, confidential and secure manner.

They have shown great willingness and ability to be flexible and adaptable to meet our needs.

As a client I am happy to learn from, as well as share practice and experience with other Expolink clients.” Head of Business Conduct, BAE Systems