Ethics policies and reporting misconduct
Our commitment to ethics
As a global humanitarian organization serving the world’s most vulnerable communities, we take our responsibility to program participants, partners, donors, and team members across the countries in which we work, seriously. We acknowledge that building and maintaining trust with the communities we serve is paramount to achieving our mission and are committed to responsibly managing that privilege to ensure that we never cause harm. We are guided by the ethical principles in our Code of Ethics, and our organizational policies and procedures.
- Speak out when something isn’t right
- Our safeguarding approach
- Have you witnessed unethical behavior?
- Reporting misconduct
- Anonymous and confidential reporting
- Non-retaliation policy
- What to expect after making a report
- Ethics policies and supplemental guidance
Speak out when something isn’t right
Misconduct is intentional wrongdoing or improper behavior that violates Mercy Corps policies and procedures.
Safeguarding: Sexual exploitation or abuse of children or adults; human trafficking; forced labor and exploitation; harm, neglect, abuse, and exploitation of children (including sexual activity with anyone under 18 years of age); sexual harassment or abuse of team members.
Fraud and corruption: Corrupt payments (bribes, kickbacks, facilitation payments), conflicts of interest, fraud (embezzlement, theft, false statements, forgery, impersonation, diversion of resources, fraudulent accounting, and procurement fraud), support for and transactions with prohibited parties and misuse of Mercy Corps resources.
Human Resources: Discrimination, harassment and bullying.
Our safeguarding approach
Any form of abuse, exploitation, harassment or trafficking directly contradicts the principles upon which our humanitarian work is based and can cause deep and lasting harm to children or adults who experience it. Mercy Corps has zero tolerance for abuse, harassment, or exploitation and is committed to ensuring physical and psychological safety within our teams and our programs. We link safeguarding closely to agency initiatives around localization and internal diversity, equity, and inclusion. We know that diverse, representative teams, where people feel comfortable speaking up and speaking out, are fundamental to safeguarding. We also understand we must continue to engage and consult with communities where we work, and with local organizations that support and elevate the voices of survivors.
For additional information about safeguarding, including reporting and investigations data, please download our FY23 Global Safeguarding Report (also available in French, Arabic, and Spanish), which provides an overview of our agency-wide approach and commitments to safeguarding.
Previous annual reports can be found at the following links. FY 22 (English, French, Arabic, and Spanish); FY21 (English, French, Arabic, and Spanish); FY20 (English, French, Arabic, and Spanish) and FY19 Part 1 (English, French, Arabic, and Spanish) and Part 2 (English, French, Arabic and Spanish).
Have you witnessed unethical behavior?
Mercy Corps offers the following ways to report:
Mercy Corps encourages a culture of openness where team members, partners, program participants, and community members can safely raise their concerns, ask questions—including those of a legal and ethical nature—and report unethical behavior. Operating ethically and with integrity is the highest priority for Mercy Corps and all team members are required to report unethical behavior or violations of any Mercy Corps’ policy. To ensure we deliver on our commitment to ethical behavior, we have multiple methods available to report concerns or seek advice.
Our Integrity Hotline offers three options to confidentially report ethics violations or seek advice in a secure manner. The Integrity Hotline web portal is available in four languages, 24 hours a day. On the web portal, you may submit your report anonymously. The web portal is administered by an independent third party to ensure confidentiality and proper handling of reported misconduct. You may also submit a report by calling our Integrity Hotline local phone lines, which are administered by a third party contractor and provide live assistance in over 50 languages. Finally, you can email concerns in any language directly to the Ethics and Compliance Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re a Mercy Corps team member, you can report your concerns to your supervisor, a trusted leader, Human Resources, a safeguarding or integrity focal point, safeguarding champion or an Ethics and Assurance Manager in your country. They will ensure that your complaints are confidentially reported to the Ethics and Compliance Department. Additionally, you may submit a report through CARM (Community Accountability Reporting Mechanism).
Anonymous and confidential reporting:
You are encouraged to provide your name when raising a concern. This allows those who are responding to your concern to contact you if additional information is needed to look into the concern thoroughly. If you choose to identify yourself when using our reporting mechanisms, Mercy Corps will keep your information as confidential as possible, sharing it only with those who need the information to ensure the concerns in your report are addressed.
You may also report anonymously, and all efforts will be made to protect your identity. If you submit a report anonymously through the web portal, it is important to provide detailed information. Cases that lack sufficient information for investigators to pursue allegations may be closed.
We recognize it takes courage to speak up when something’s not right. We understand that you might be uncomfortable or anxious. That is why we do not tolerate retaliation against anyone who participates in an investigation, raises a legal or ethical concern, or reports misconduct in good faith. Good faith means that the report was made out of genuine concern for Mercy Corps or team members involved. It also means that you have provided information that you believe to be comprehensive, honest, and accurate at the time, even if you are later proven to be mistaken. We consider acts of retaliation to be a serious violation of our ethics policies and values. Retaliation can take many forms, such as threats, intimidation, exclusion, humiliation, and raising issues maliciously. Any team member who believes they are being retaliated against should immediately report this to the Integrity Hotline. Team members who raise issues maliciously or in bad faith (e.g. where a report is knowingly false) will be subject to discipline.
What to expect after making a report:
If you make a report using our web portal, phone lines, or email address, you will receive an automated confirmation of your submission. You may be contacted for clarification or additional information about your reported concerns, unless your feedback was submitted anonymously. If at any point you are unsure if a report has gone through the proper channels and followed the established process, you can follow up directly with the Integrity Hotline or by emailing the Ethics and Compliance Department.
All reports are taken seriously and will be reviewed and addressed as appropriate. Our ability to provide updates related to your report is limited by our legal responsibilities and confidentiality obligations. Whenever possible, we will provide you with status updates so you know that your concern is receiving an appropriate response. We strive to complete our investigations in a timely and thorough manner. All reports are logged in our case management system.
Our first concern as we proceed with an inquiry is the safety and security of all involved, especially any survivor. We prioritize the safety, health, and well-being of all survivors and offer medical, legal, and psycho-social and emotional support as appropriate. Our safeguarding investigators are all specially trained in providing a survivor-centered response. We assess risk to the survivor and all other parties to an investigation continuously. If we receive an allegation of sexual abuse, exploitation, or assault, we take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk of the accused individual causing further harm while we work through our investigative process.
If an allegation of misconduct were to involve an executive team or board member, we would engage external expert investigators to ensure the independence of the investigation and objectivity of the conclusions.
Ethics policies and supplemental guidance
- Anti-Fraud and Anti-Corruption Policy (also available in French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian); supplemental guide available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic
- Anti-Human Trafficking and Exploitation Policy (also available in French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian); supplemental guide available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian
- Child Safeguarding Policy (also available in French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian); supplemental guide available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic
- Code of Ethics (also available in French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian)
- Community Accountability Reporting Mechanism (CARM) policy (also available in Arabic, French, Russian, and Spanish)
- Conflict of Interest Policy (also available in Arabic, French, and Spanish)
- Discrimination, Harassment and Bullying Policy (also available in French, Spanish, and Arabic); supplemental guide available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic
- Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Programme Participants and Community Members Policy (also available in French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian); supplemental guide available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic
- Preventing Support for and Transactions with Prohibited Parties Policy (also available in French, Spanish, and Arabic)
- Safeguarding Core Standards Policy (also available, in Arabic, French and Spanish)
- Sexual Misconduct Policy (also available in French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian); supplemental guide available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian
- Speak Out! Policy (also available in Arabic, French and Spanish)