It’s a well-known World Bank statistic, but one that bears continual repeating: More than US$1.5 trillion – or 2% of world gross domestic product – is paid in bribes each and every year, contributing to the demise of governments, inadequate social services, inferior infrastructure, low-quality goods and services, and a general strain on public and private sector integrity and reputation.
But the past several years have seen marked progress in the global fight against bribery and corruption, particularly with the adoption of ISO 37001 “Anti-Bribery Management Systems,” which provides generally accepted standards for establishing, implementing, maintaining, reviewing and improving an organisation’s anti-bribery management system.
The global adoption of the standard means that organisations worldwide can now publicly demonstrate their intent to battle bribery via review, examination and certification of their systems to the ISO standard. And in doing so, those certified organisations are realising many key benefits that come with certification, and the extended impact certification has on their supply chain and third-party partners.
Certification: A Conscientious Decision
ISO 37001 certification is not currently mandated by governments around the world, with the exception of Malaysia and a few other countries which are considering certification as a requirement for private sector organisations bidding for government contracts. That said, multi-national organisations are increasingly seeking certification as a conscientious decision to improve their operations for the good of the overall organisation.
In doing so, those organisations are making a strong statement to their stakeholders, customers, authorities, third-parties and the international marketplace that they are taking all necessary measures to review, amend and improve their systems and processes to control and prevent bribery.
Even more important, to verify compliance and achieve such certification, those organisations are willing to expose their operations to outside independent auditors who are specifically trained in identifying risks and weaknesses within the organisation, while making recommendations for improvement.
From an integrity perspective, the result of certification to the ISO 37001 standard can help reduce internal and external corruption risks, manage compliance risks and boost the public perception and reputation of the organisation as a whole.
This can provide the organisation with certain advantages in the tender process and give the organisation a competitive edge in business development.
Take for example the case of Mubadala Investment Company PJSC (Mubadala ), a state-owned holding company that can be characterised as a sovereign wealth fund in the United Arab Emirates, a country widely known for its relatively high rankings on the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.
In 2019 Mubadala called on CRI Group’s ABAC Center of Excellence to attain ISO 37001 certification. Upon completion of the extremely thorough and careful certification process, Mubadala Head of Ethics & Compliance noted that achieving such certification has helped his organisation provide full confidence to its partners and shareholders, and has opened avenues of investment for international and national companies because Mubadala enjoys a great rapport with the business community as a competent and truthful entity.
“We are very proud to attain this certification. It demonstrates our strong commitment to the highest standards of ethics and integrity in our activities. This achievement specifically affirms the presence of anti-bribery management systems across Mubadala that support a culture of transparency and compliance in line with the highest global standards.” Mubadala Head of Ethics & Compliance said.
The Ripple Effect of Certification
While one of the most beneficial advantage of certification is that it formally announces to the global marketplace that the organisation has gone to great lengths to demonstrate a high level of integrity in its compliance program and can be looked upon as a trusted partner when it comes to business affiliations and future business dealings, there is an notable down-stream effect as well.
That’s where the standard requires intense third-party due diligence to verify that the organisation’s supply-chain partners maintain a strong commitment to anti-bribery compliance. This subsequently motivates the organisation’s business partners, suppliers and third-party providers to examine and improve their own practices, knowing that the organisation will not conduct business with outside providers that don’t measure up to its internationally accepted compliance standards.
And managing third-party risks will result in the ongoing supply of high-quality products and services, on-time delivery, reduced legal liability, increased stakeholder protection, higher customer satisfaction and improved reputation, to name just a few of the associated benefits.
Certification Improves the Organisation
Finally, ISO 37001 certification is structured in a way that not only identifies risks and weaknesses within an organisation’s anti-bribery framework, it also outlines measures designed to improve that framework and, in turn, contribute to strengthening the overall operation. Here are some examples:
Financially, certification can help identify redundancies in the processes used to combat anti-bribery and corruption, potentially reducing the costs associated with duplication. Additionally, through certification, one can assume that demonstrating an adequate procedures defense may in many cases reduce legal costs in bribery cases and investigations, while also reducing or eliminating potential fines levied in such cases.
Operationally, certification can help to streamline internal processes and controls, and – through effective top-down management advocacy – ensure that all staff levels of the organisation stand united in the fight against bribery and corruption.
Ethically, certification shows that the organisation is making a conscientious choice to protect its customers by taking strong stances against the effects of bribery, which include overpriced products or services, defective parts, and under-qualified labor – all of which can produce economic hardship, physical harm or even death.
From a brand perspective, certification demonstrates that the organisation is committed to operating in an ethical environment, taking strong measures to prevent bad actors from succeeding and exposing the organisation to negative media publicity, adverse public reaction and damaged reputation.
And from business development standpoint, certification can effectively enhance the organisation’s ability to secure new business contracts, as public sectors around the world are increasingly requiring such certification as a qualification in the bidding process for large-scale contracts.
It’s no secret why multi-national organisations are increasingly realising the many benefits of ISO 37001 certification, as they enjoy improved internal systems and procedures, greater operational efficiency and top-down confidence throughout the organisation, to reduced corporate risks, stakeholder liability, and a resulting competitive edge in the international marketplace.
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ABAC Certification (www.ABACGroup.com) is an accredited certification body in issuing ISO 37001:2016 certification, and an independent component of CRI Group’s Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption (ABAC) Center of Excellence, which was created to educate, equip and support the world’s leading business organisations with the latest in best-practice due diligence processes and procedures, providing world-class anti-bribery and anti-corruption solutions to organisations seeking to validate or expand their existing compliance frameworks to maintain a competitive edge in the world marketplace.
Zafar I. ANJUM, MSc, MS, LLM, CFE, CIS, MICA, Int. Dip. (Fin. Crime), CII, MIPI, MABI, M IoD
Group Chief Executive Officer
Corporate Research and Investigations Limited and Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption (ABAC) Center of Excellence