Bribery is a significant issue around the world, affecting many regions. Speaking on International Anti-Corruption Day, United Nations (UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the annual cots of international corruption amounts to a staggering $3.6 trillion in the form of bribes and stolen money.
Corruption affects our society in many ways. Not only is it a political issue, undermining the rule of law and public trust in institutions and officials, it can also siphon away a country’s wealth to enrich corrupt officials.
Ultimately, corruption and bribery can perpetuate itself, feeding into the perception – and creating a pervasive culture – in which a bribe is seen as a way of life. In business, it is seen as a way to get ahead and leads to business decisions – such as major contracts – being awarded for all the wrong reasons.
For businesses implicated in bribery scandals, the repercussions can be significant – chiefly amongst them being reputational damage and loss of credibility. This is why organizations need to pay attention to anti-bribery management, making it a key component of their organizational DNA.
For instance, TUV Rheinland has a comprehensive Compliance Program that ensures that their organization and their partners adhere to a common set of values and guidelines so that they can effectively and ethically work towards achieving their mission.
Within the Compliance Program, there is a Compliance Management System that contains components like values and rules, awareness-raising and trainings, and dialogues and investigations. The organization has clearly laid down several company policies such as the Code of Conduct and Anti-Corruption Guideline for employees to follow. They also conduct mandatory compliance trainings for these employees and managers worldwide, and have compliance consulting services in place in case of potential breaches.
These measures are key to creating a solid anti-bribery management system, especially to retain and ensure that the company’s values, mission, vision are appropriately embodied and passed down to newer employees.
Given the severe consequences of bribery and corruption, how can organizations protect themselves from being caught up in such issues?
Here are 10 things to take note if you’re in an organization that’s looking to step up anti-bribery management:
1) Increased Awareness of the Various Forms of Bribery
Bribery has been defined in many ways, but all of these definitions share a common point – the involvement of an individual (or individuals) in an appointed position in conducting an illegal and unethical violation of breach of trust in exchange for a benefit or inducement.
This “involvement” encompasses the acts of offering, giving, promising, accepting, and/or soliciting such benefits/inducements. While the most common benefit derived from bribery is cash, it can also include loans, fee and/or tax waivers, rewards, exorbitant gifts, hospitality and expenses, access to vital company assets, or the granting of favors to a relative, friend, or cause.
Organizations looking to step up their anti-bribery management should list out and define these actions, and educate employees on them.
2) The Importance of Creating a Code of Conduct
Every company should create a Code of Conduct that will govern and influence the ethical behavior of everyone in the organization – from the lowest ranking employees, contractual workers, third parties, etc. to the directors and executives in the higher echelons.
A vital inclusion to such a code is the upholding of integrity and commitment against all acts of bribery through the clear enumeration of conduct guidelines at all levels of the company. These guidelines include the requirements and expectations from every member of the organization. The Code of Conduct should be incorporated into the employee employment and board member contracts. It is vital that the relevance of the Code is clearly defined and worded in these contracts, and the guidelines therein easily understood and achievable.
If the company in question works with third parties from other countries, the contracts should be made available in their respective regional languages.
3) External Communication of the Code of Conduct is Vital
Any successful major company or organization will ultimately expand to other regions or even other countries. Whether the company’s branches are within the region or abroad, external communication of the Code of Conduct must be done to deter possible lapses into corrupt practices.
This means that internal controls and compliance measures should be implemented throughout the organizational network, not just in the central or main office, but more so, in its various branches, no matter how big or small. This is especially critical to those companies which operate in countries wherein corruption runs rampant. There is the growing temptation to succumb to the belief that because “everyone, including competitors, is doing it”, they can also do the same.
4) Support for Anti-Bribery Management Needs to Come from The Company’s Top Brass
Every successful and reputable organization recognizes the importance of corporate commitment to exemplary business ethics and conduct. The rationale here is the building of trust and the creation/maintenance of a positive image, not just with customers and clients (consumer confidence), but also with business partners and authority figures.
However, for any anti-bribery management effort to succeed, it must be supported by the top echelons of company management, whether that is the CEO or the board of directors. Together with a defined whistle blowing policy, this ensures employees feel secure in reporting any misdemeanors without fear of reprisals from those higher up in the chain of authority.
5) The Creation of An Anti-Bribery Management System (ABMS) is Integral to Curbing Bribery and Other Corrupt practices
Every company or organization should make the firm commitment for the creation of an Anti-Bribery Management System (ABMS) that will enable smooth and proper functioning on all levels of the company, bolster their reputation, and minimize the potential for bribery risks.
These systems are designed for the reduction of risk in all parts of your value chain and promote comprehensive documentation as protection against any liability if any criminal investigation should be implemented against the company.
6) ISO 37001 was developed to help organizations with anti-bribery management
Companies should incorporate into their business framework ISO 37001. This new and effective business tool is the very first international ABMS standard that is designed to enable organizations to combat bribery risk in all of their operations and global value chains. Other potential benefits of ISO 370001 include the reduction of bribery-related risks and costs through the creation and provision of a manageable and efficient business framework that targets the detection, prevention, and punishment for acts of bribery.
According to Neill Stansbury, Chairman of the ISO project committee ISO/PC 278 which developed the new standard, “Bribery is a significant business risk in many countries and sectors. In many cases, it has been tolerated as a ‘necessary’ part of doing business. However, increasing awareness of the damage caused by bribery to countries, organizations and individuals has resulted in calls for effective action to be taken to prevent bribery.”
7) ISO 37001 can complement your current organization anti-bribery efforts
While many companies and organizations have invested significant resources, time, and effort into developing anti-bribery systems and processes, they can still complement their current efforts with ISO 37001.
ISO 37001:2016, in particular, is such a complementary business tool, not only providing broader support against bribery but also providing clarity and transparency on the various measures and controls that the organization needs to implement and how to do so with the greatest effectiveness and efficiency.
Having ISO 37001 certification demonstrates that the company or organization has taken the necessary, responsible steps to ensure the implementation of ethical business practices and procedures in the proactive battle against all forms of bribery. It also serves as a sign of trust and confidence in the strength of both your value chain and your brand in competitive markets.
8) ISO 370001 can assist organizations in improving bribery risk management
By establishing an ABMS that meets ISO 37001 standards, companies demonstrate their capabilities to fight bribery and corruption and their associated negative effects. Bribery risk management is accomplished through thorough auditing and certification of their anti-corruption management systems. ISO 37001 is documentary evidence that a company has taken the appropriate steps to prevent bribery. Again, this serves to bolster trust among business partners and investors, as well as consumer confidence.
It must be mentioned, however, that having an ISO 37001 certification does not mean that a company is no longer liable for bribery criminal investigations in case such an incident occurs. It also does not mean that the company can safely assume that its existing system is sufficient to curb bribery and corruption.
What ISO 37001 certification demands is that companies should continue to demonstrate to enforcement regulators and agencies that they continue to exert due diligence in making the necessary changes or adjustments needed in their current ABMS and that they have established an efficient compliance program to reduce bribery risks.
9) Organizations and governments around the world have adopted ISO 37001
The global adoption of ISO 37001 is due to the demands of the public sector that organizations and governments implement ways and means to curb corruption.
In 2018, worldwide adoption of ISO 37001 by the public sector began to take place. Implementation of “soft” adoption of the standard was done in Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, and Singapore. Singapore – together with Brazil and Denmark – progressed to a “hard” adoption of ISO 37001. A good example is the requirement of ISO 37001 certification by prosecutors in bribery allegation settlements.
Adoption of ISO 37001 is specifically being advocated in regions and countries with high incidences of bribery and corruption. Such a certification enables governments, agencies, and corporations to present to the public that they have met the strict standards of ISO in terms of ABMS by incorporating global anti-bribery procedures and practices with existing, applicable laws.
10) ISO 37001 requires organizational commitment
Any company or organization that seeks to attain the ISO 37001 standard needs to make a solid commitment to the adoption and implementation of the standard’s practices and procedures.
While the standard is being administered by the certifying body, its implementation falls on the shoulders of everyone in the organization. What the ISO 37001 standard does is to provide the framework by which any organization’s ABMS can be assessed and certified.
While this is not a guarantee that bribery can be prevented, it allows for the strict, continuous enforcement of the guidelines outlined in the standard among the organization’s management and staff.
Does your organization want to get a head start in curbing bribery and corruption within your ranks?
If your answer is yes, then you should consider obtaining the ISO 37001 standard.
As a leading testing, inspection, and ISO certification services provider, TÜV Rheinland has gained the distinction of being among the first accredited bodies authorized to grant certification for the new ISO 37001 global standard. Through a decade’s worth of experience in compliance issues and regulation, we have established our very own compliance standard that meets client needs and requirements. Through the years, our clients have relied on us to provide the best solutions to their compliance problems by utilizing current, proven technologies with cutting-edge innovations. Take advantage of our knowledge and expertise to become ISO 37001 certified today!