White paper: Two criticisms of ISO 37001: and why they are misguided

White paper: Two criticisms of ISO 37001: and why they are misguided

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Imagine a global problem that governments and businesses are desperately trying to solve due to its negative impact on society. Now also imagine that a group of international experts come together to develop a solution to help guide leaders in dealing with this problem. And lastly, imagine that despite the promise held by this solution, some critics hesitate to embrace it due to a variety of misunderstandings about the solution’s objectives, requirements and application.

This scenario perfectly describes how some organizations and thought leaders have approached ISO 37001 on Anti-Bribery Management Systems as a potential solution to combating corruption.

In 2016, the International Monetary Fund published a report highlighting the significant effects of bribery – it costs $2 trillion dollars per year1, leads to market imbalance, harms local communities, and causes significant reputational damage to commercial organizations. That same year, the International Organization on Standardization (ISO) released ISO 37001, a global standard that organizations can use to identify, develop, and measure best practices and controls for an anti-bribery program. Most importantly, organizations can get certified against ISO 37001 to demonstrate their commitment to integrity and ethical business dealing.

Until this point, there has been no global standard or benchmark used to guide the development of an anti-bribery program.

Despite the promise held by ISO 37001, many compliance thought leaders have expressed concerns over various facets of the standard and the concept of certification as proof of an established anti-bribery program. Criticisms levied by experts fall into two broad categories, including:
1) The legal relevance of ISO 37001
2) The concept of certification as proof of an established anti-bribery program

This paper describes the two main criticisms regarding ISO 37001 and explains why each is misguided or inaccurate.