Six month report card for the ISO 37001

 Lexis Diligence, Compliance Solutions, LexisNexis BIS

ISO 37001 was issued by the International Standards Organisation in October 2016. The new standard was issued for corporate and companies to certify their anti-red tapism, anti bribery and corruption compliance procedures. Six months down the line, we note that many of the organisations have adopted this standard.

Global spread

The ISO 37001 standard has made a tremendous debut and has been conciled upon by standards bodies in almost 37 countries who are further promoting it across the world. The latest one is Peru; it is the first Latin American country to implement the standard. Peru had lost about $4 billion owing to misappropriation of public funds, nepotism, bribery and other sorts of corruption; this is why the country adopted the effective ISO 37001 standard. Meanwhile, the Government of Montreal in Canada has appointed an authority to assess and recommend how to put the principles of ISO 37001 into practise. On the similar lines, Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) has implemented the Singapore Standard which is based on the ISO 37001. Countries in Middle East and North Africa have also embraced the standard to improve their conditions on corruption and bribery. Deloitte-related personnel Colin Keeney puts light on the fact that six of the 37 countries, which were involved with the evolvement of this standard, belong to this region.

The expectations are high that the number of companies looking to adopt this standard will increase reasonably over the next year. A business survey conducted by the Compliance Week Magazine found that 56% of the companies (who were being surveyed) are in the process to initiate the certification. This survey was conducted in 2017. This rise in demand for the standard is mirrored in the fact that countries like France, Dubai, Singapore and Canada have already set up courses to teach firms how to implement the standard effectively. For instance, a five-day course at the École de technologiesupérieure (ETS) in Montreal is conducted by two former directors of the police force for the province of Quebec. It has also been reported that several companies have begun to pursue ISO 37001 certification after they faced enforcement action for bribery offences.

A flexible standard

The ISO 37001 standard is flexible enough to be incorporated by entities that are diverse in nature. It just requires the organisations to implement "reasonable and proportionate policies, procedures and controls". It is highly recommended that a company with a huge base of suppliers, or which operates in an industry or country with a high risk of corruption, should invest more heavily in their compliance programme.

So far, the standard has been able to acknowledge the related issues. Apart from gaining acceptance in countries like Peru and Singapore by large, small and medium-sized companies, it is even being used to refurbish anti-bribery and anti-corruption systems in sports. It has been applied by the Finnish Centre for Integrity in Sport.

Future Road for the ISO 37001

ISO 37001 is not merely a way out for a company to avoid prosecution (in case it found guilty of financial scam). It has much broader implications to it. Italian multinational oil and gas company Eni was the first to obtain this certification. Less than two weeks later, its CEO was arrested on bribery and corruption charges. Thus, it is highly recommended that the companies use ISO 37001 certification with a genuine intention to improve their ability to prevent and detect bribery and corruption.

We are yet to study the effectiveness of this standard. First and foremost, it will depend on how widely it is adopted. If a majority of companies in a particular industry are ISO 37001 certified, then others will naturally come under pressure from shareholders to do the same. Otherwise a rival, certified firm will be seen as more trustworthy and therefore a better prospect to invest in. Secondly, the standard will be more effective if governments require companies to be certified in order to be eligible for public procurement contracts. All these things will take a while to create a concrete picture.