Why ISO 37001 Certification Makes Sense for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises

As most small and medium sized business owners or decision makers know, any product or service they purchase needs be functional, easy-to-use, and have a value which they consider to exceed its price point. This attention to value for money can be attributed to their companies’ limited resources, particularly for things which they consider to be non-essential. Unfortunately, support functions, like compliance, often fall into this category. This non-essential perception can be attributed to the fact that, traditionally, it has been difficult to prove the value these functions provide or their return on investment in numerical terms.

Managers who have not been trained on the importance of corruption prevention tend to view investment in programme improvements, like the implementation of an anti-bribery management system (ABMS), as an onerous expense. This is particularly true if the risk the system is designed to mitigate is misunderstood by management or other relevant actors. Setting up an ABMS and having it certified against the ISO 37001 standard demonstrates both a commitment to and the value of compliance. An ISO 37001 certification offers great value to SMEs and management will appreciate its importance through services like our Management Briefing.

Providing a framework to demonstrate results

The ABMS framework that is required for ISO 37001 certification ensures that businesses are able to measure the effectiveness of the corruption prevention processes that are in place. By taking measurements and determining how successfully an organisation conforms to these processes,  employee accountability is ensured at every level. Businesses, not just small and medium sized, will see the value of their compliance department and its vital role in corruption prevention. Once a successful ABMS is in place, the compliance department will be able to further highlight its accomplishment both internally and externally by demonstrating that the department’s work meets international best practices in corruption prevention through ISO 37001 certification.

Flexible for Future Growth

Small and medium sized companies, like their multinational counterparts, are subject to corruption prevention obligations and requirements by many of the countries in which they operate. Instead of treating each of these requirements individually by creating procedures to meet them, the establishment of an anti-bribery management system consolidates all relevant measures and leads to more effective overall corruption prevention. Having this system in place saves money in the long run and ensures continual improvement through the identification of potential areas of exposure. It is also flexible enough to grow with your company as your operational risks change, like moving into new markets.

Built with Small and Medium Sized Companies in Mind

When you read a copy of the ISO 37001 standard, you will frequently find the words ‘reasonable’ and ‘appropriate.’ This language was included intentionally to reassure small to medium-sized companies that an anti-bribery management (ABMS) system is an affordable tool for all, not just the wealthier multinationals. You will be able to customise your ABMS to meet the needs of your SME. When this is done properly, you will meet the certification requirements of the ISO 37001 standard.

"Certification is a very strong way to differentiate us from our competitors"
- Anne Le Rolland, CEO of the SME, ACTE International Group

Specific Instances Where SMEs Might Find Value

Though anti-bribery management systems (ABMS) can benefit any business, consider these situations where the advantages of ISO 37001 certification form a tangible return on investment for SMEs towards the cost of an ISO 37001 audit.

  1. Before any contracts are signed, most multinational companies (particularly those that are dedicated to corruption prevention) will send questionnaires to their potential suppliers and service providers. The intent of this is to gauge the potential supplier’s commitment to doing business with integrity. In other words, anti-corruption efforts are so important to these multinationals that they do not want to waste time with organisations that do not share these values.

    Completing these questionnaires is time-consuming for the SMEs as the forms differ from one multinational to the next. They find themselves obliged to repeat the exercise time and again. The real challenge, however, is that even if an SME qualifies for work with one multinational, it will not necessarily qualify them for another. This repeated process takes a significant amount of time away from other tasks that offer more concrete value.

    In this context, an ISO 37001 certification demonstrates to multinationals that a qualified third party has attested to the fact that the SME in question has implemented an ABMS which meets international best practices standards. The decision to certify could then reasonably reduce the amount of time spent on completing the different required integrity checks and create new opportunities.
  1. When responding to a call for tender, whether emanating from a government or a business, the existence of a system that is dedicated to social responsibility and/or a commitment to sustainable development has made a difference in the past. This is particularly true in situations where prices and offers of service are very similar amongst competing companies. Now that many organisations have adopted a similar commitment to corruption prevention, how can you set your bid apart? This is where proof of an appropriate, effective ABMS can offer businesses and particularly SMEs a distinct advantage. Certifying an ABMS against the ISO 37001 standard is the most effective way to prove the system’s effectiveness and differentiate your bid from competitors.

What are the First Steps?

The road to certification begins with the creation of an anti-bribery management system (ABMS) that is tailored to your business. If the SME does not have a compliance team in place to accomplish this internally, they may have to hire a consulting agency that is experienced in the requirements of the standard.

Make sure that particular attention is paid to section 4, which focuses on the context of the organisation. For small to medium-sized companies it is relatively easy to respond to the questions in this section and subsequently identify the measures necessary for implementation. These measures include:

  • The involvement of top management (section 5) which is self-evident for a small to medium-sized company
  • Planning of the implementation over a certain period, 3 years, for example (section 6)
  • Definition of the resources required, particularly human resources, and budgetary if necessary (section 7)
  • Implementation of prevention tools (due diligence, a gifts and invitations policy, etc. (section 8) adapted to the specific needs of the company
  • Regular evaluation – i.e. annual – of the implementation of the programme (section 9) which is standard for any management system
  • Continual improvement to the ABMS based on the evaluations (section 10)

The ISO 37001 is first and foremost a reference for the development of an ABMS, but certification of that system brings additional advantages to SMEs. If you’re interested in learning more about anti-bribery management systems, companies that can help you with their implementation, or having ETHIC Intelligence certify your ABMS against ISO 37001, contact us by email, phone, or fill out our enquiry form. We’d love to hear from you!