Will Green
Aug 13, 2023

Dentsu international whistleblowing reports more than double

Majority of complaints related to 'respect, bullying, harassment, discrimination' category.

Dentsu: implemented a new technology platform for Speak Up in 2022.
Dentsu: implemented a new technology platform for Speak Up in 2022.

Reports to Dentsu’s international complaints line have increased by 163%, according to the company’s Integrated Report 2023.

The number of “Speak Up” incident reports in 2022 was 100, up on 38 in 2021. In 2020 the figure was 43 and in 2019 it was 35. 

Speak Up is the company’s portal for staff to make complaints confidentially. The company said the majority of complaints related to the "respect, bullying, harassment, discrimination" category.

Dentsu has separate reporting systems for its international business and its Japanese arm, though it is planning a common platform across the group.

In Japan the company recorded 101 “internally-reported complaints”, down on 136 in 2021 and compared to 106 in 2020 and 194 in 2019. The report also recorded 12 “Compliance Line” reports in 2022, six in 2021, 10 in 2020 and 17 in 2019. This means a total of 113 complaints were received in 2022.

"As our whistle-blowing hotlines for use by all officers and employees of group companies, we have ‘Compliance Line’ in Japan and ‘Speak Up’ in other countries,” said the report.

“By linking the functions of these hotlines to the early detection and remediation of compliance violations, we are promoting compliance management and the sound growth of the business. 

“Moving forward, an introduction of a common platform is planned for the group to unify the management of whistle-blowing cases as well as the establishment of a process for root cause analysis, improvement, and continuous learning to further strengthen our compliance system.”

The company employs 46,919 people internationally and 22,018 in Japan. Its agencies include Carat, Dentsu Creative, Dentsu X, iProspect and Merkle.

Separately, Dentsu has vowed to improve corporate governance after an investigation into "alleged violation of the Japanese Antimonopoly Act related to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympics test events bidding". Tim Andree, Dentsu chairman, said in the report: "The board takes the situation seriously," and "I want to assure all stakeholders that the significant changes to governance we have taken at the board level, executive level, and throughout the group demonstrate a sincere embrace of best practices in terms of compliance, risk management, transparency, and ethical decision-making."

Three of the “big six” holding companies—WPP, Publicis Groupe and Dentsu—publish global complaint figures. Latest figures show incidents dropped by 24.7% at WPP in 2022 year on year to 372, while they rose 121% to 84 at Publicis Groupe.

A Dentsu spokesperson said a new technology platform for Speak Up was implemented in 2022. “Following implementation, the number of reports increased roughly [by four times] on a run-rate basis, including internal reports not from the hotline," they said. 

“Reports covered a range of issues, with generally the largest number of reports related to ‘respect, bullying, harassment, discrimination’, a category which covered a range of employee relations issues.”

Dentsu said it had a 99% completion rate on required training on its code of conduct and related policies and it had put a disciplinary framework in place.

“Employees are also asked annually in the engagement survey to ask whether they feel comfortable speaking up at Dentsu,” the spokesperson said. “Increasing levels of Speak Up reporting towards these benchmarks are a positive indicator of employee experience of the Speak Up process and a positive development of a company’s ethics and compliance programme.”

Meanwhile, figures from Campaign’s School Reports show just 15% of agencies have adopted fairer non-disclosure agreements to tackle harassment. Fifteen out of the 100 agencies in the School Reports have signed up to the “Make NDAs Fair” pledge, which calls on adland businesses to adopt fairer policies on NDAs around sexual harassment.


Campaign UK

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