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Global Records Retention Schedules – A Complex Undertaking

by | Apr 9, 2021

Records retention schedules can be difficult to maintain due to the constantly evolving landscape of laws and regulations governing the discipline. That task becomes even more robust when organizations venture into the adoption of a global records retention schedule as they expand operations, sales  and/or manufacturing efforts into a new territory.

While records retention schedules in the United States and Canada are complex in their own regard, a global records retention schedule must take into account a variety of factors that are unique to each country where business is conducted.

One common hurdle is language barriers which make understanding retention laws more difficult— especially when an organization doesn’t have the bandwidth, resources or personnel to understand the nuances of each culture.

Another factor is international research, which is generally readily available in the United States and Canada. Considering legal research has only become comprehensive in a handful of countries, developing a records retention schedule that will be adherent to all global requirements can be a formidable task.

Still, these are only a few of the long list of potential barriers. Vocabulary, retention periods, electronic records rules, and differing views on topics such as environmental law can all be different than what many organizations are accustomed to in the United States and Canada. To compound things even more, these laws can change in a moment’s notice and there is no universal adoption of new standards—simply cultural preferences.



To overcome these barriers, many organizations create rules based upon commonly accepted records retention practices in the United States and Canada. From there, they submit these retention schedules to their corresponding international office for review from legal counsel. If legal counsel deems a longer retention schedule is necessary based upon the country where business is being conducted, recommendations can be made. This can be a cost-efficient method for smaller companies, but is far from a comprehensive global retention schedule.

While many companies update their domestic records retention schedule every 1-3 years, the sheer number of intricacies involved with global retention schedules may require more tedious attention. With most organizations unable to devote the resources to complete comprehensive legal research of each country, many fall out of compliance.

If your company has already gone global with its operations or aspires to do so, contact Western Integrated Systems today and have our team of records management experts walk you through the process of developing a records retention schedule that will remain compliant no matter where your business lands.


Written by WIS



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