Finnwatch follows the ethical guidelines set in this document in its research work, production of information and communications. The purpose of these guidelines is to ensure transparency and quality of Finnwatch’s research and communications. The ethical guidelines must also be made available to the public and external stakeholders for their information and scrutiny.
These ethical guidelines are based on the rules that preceeded these guidelines, ethical guidelines of comparable organizations and where appropriate, also on Guidelines for Journalists (by The Council for Mass Media in Finland). These guidelines only cover the research and communications work of the organization. Finnwatch may, in accordance with its mission, participate in public debate in other ways as well.
Selection of research topics and subjects
Finnwatch selects its research topics and subjects in accordance with its mission. Finnwatch may also undertake research assignments, if the assignment is in line with the mission of the organisation. The commissioning party will be mentioned in any publications. In order to maintain its independence, Finnwatch cannot accept assignments or funding for research from private corporations.
Finnwatch strives to choose its research topics in a transparent and participatory manner. In order to solicit input into the selection of the research subjects and topics, at least one public hearing for organisations and consumers interested in corporate responsibility is to be organised each year, and discussion on possible research topics is encouraged in the social media as well.
Independence of research
Finnwatch determines its research methods itself, and the decision-making power on publizicing research findings will not be handed over to external parties.
Using external researchers
Finnwatch may commission or publish research and articles produced by external actors, such as researchers familiar with the subject, investigative journalists or organisations working on similar topics. External researchers mainly follow these ehical guidelines as well.
If an external researcher does not follow these guidelines in full or in part, this will be mentioned in any relevant publications. It will also be mentioned, which research methods and ethical guidelines, such as guidelines of another organization or the Guidelines for Journalists, have been applied. If an external researcher or a partner has participated in a Finnwatch publication, it must always be clear whether the conclusions are the views of Finnwatch or the external partner.
When researchers and/or organisations from third countries are employed as assistants, Finnwatch strives to provide support to local organisations and researchers and build their research capacity. Support and guidance in following these ethical guidelines will also be provided as needed.
Finnwatch always does its utmost to provide truthful information. All information sources used in the course of research are carefully evaluated and critically interrogated. Critical interrogation is especially important in controversial issues.
Topics researched by Finnwatch typically involve strong interests. Some actors may try to hinder the research (e.g. prevent entry into a factory under research), and some are often the only possible source of information regarding issues taking place behind closed doors. Information provided by sources is to be verified from other sources as necessary; however a decision to publish information based on limited number of sources can be made if justified. In such cases the reader is to be informed on how the information was obtained and how the source is connected to the subject of the research as relevant. Should new information become available at a later date, Finnwatch will attempt to supplement already published reporting within the limits of available resources.
The reliability of the information published by Finnwatch often requires relatively large amount of oral information sources (for example, employees of a factory that is the subject of the research). If information relates to a large group of people, sources must be sufficiently representative of the group in terms of quantity, age, sex and position. The reader must also be provided with information regarding the sources based on which it is possible to evaluate the representativeness of the sample (e.g. how many per cent of the factory’s employees were interviewed).
If publicity is a threat to the wellbeing or livelihood of those interviewed, Finnwatch may withhold their identity. In order to publish or reveal the identity of the interviewee, a permission must be obtained from him or her.
Finnwatch often obtains information from companies that are subject to the investigations, and whose representatives are approached for an interview or a statement. Corporate interviews are always conducted in writing (e.g. via email) whenever it is possible within time limits.
All interviewees are informed beforehand how their statements will be used. Interviewees must always know whether the discussion is leading to a publication or if its only background material. If the interviewee later prohibits the publication of their statement it will only be complied with if the circumstances have changed so significantly that publication of the statement would clearly be unreasonable. Interview notes and recordings are kept in order to later verify statements if needed.
Written sources may include academic studies, reports by authorities and organisations as well as media reports. The reader must always be informed regarding what kind of written sources the information is based on. Written sources are also critically interrogated and the possible interests of the source in relation to the research subject are made as transparent as possible.
An external expert is asked to review the content of written reports and statements published by Finnwatch prior to the publication. If sufficient expertise exists within the organization, an internal expert may also be used to approve the content.
Right to review information and to response
If a research project relates to a named corporation or organisation, the corporation or organisation will be provided with essential research findings relating to it before publication, unless there are significant reasons to believe that providing advance information would jeopardize the publication of the findings. A corporation is provided with an opportunity to identify possible factual errors and give additional information prior to publication. The corporation is provided with sufficient time (usually about two weeks) to respond. Factual errors are corrected and additional information provided by the corporation is taken into account in the final publication when possible. Finnwatch maintains the decision-making authority relating to the content of its publications in all circumstances.
Research subjects also have the opportunity to publish their response on Finnwatch website. The response is published as is and simultaneously with Finnwatch’s own research. If the statement is not appropriate to be published on Finnwatch website possible changes to it are discussed with the author. If an agreement cannot be reached, Finnwatch strives to publish the essential content in a factual form. If the writer of the reply does not accept publication in factual form, Finnwatch will present a public justification to not publishing the response on its website. The justification will also contain a link to the response if it has been published on the website of the corporation.
Titles, lead paragraphs, cover texts and picture captions as well as introductions and press releases accompanying a publication must correspond with and be grounded in the content of the publication.
Correction of an error
If factual errors are found after the publication, they are to be corrected without delay on the Finnwatch website at the same URL address as the publication.
If a subject of Finnwatch research finds that it has not been treated in accordance with these guidelines and that an error has not been corrected although it had been brought to the attention of Finnwatch by the subject, the subject may complain to the board of Finnwatch. Upon receipt of a complaint, the board will request a written response from the executive director of Finnwatch.
Both the complaint and the written response are discussed in the next board meeting without the presence of hired employees. The board will provide the complainant with a written response within two weeks of having discussed the matter. Possible erroneous information is corrected publicly in accordance with these guidelines.
Finnwatch also produces and publizises news and articles on its website, which are not based on Finnwatch’s own research (or research commissioned by Finnwatch). Production of news for publication on the website is journalistic work where Guidelines for Journalists are followed.
These ethical guidelines have been approved by the Finnwatch board on 15 September 2010 and they have been applied to all research projects that have been initiated after this approval. The guidelines have been reviewed on 9 February 2011 and 14 December 2012.
Please see here for Finnwatch’s procurement policy (in Finnish).
Access here Finnwatch's by-laws (approved by the Board on 20 October 2010, in Finnish).