New global anti-bribery standard launched

Following the creation of a new international standard on anti-bribery, Anil Iyer explains the background to the development and its potential implications.

Just over five years ago the UK Bribery Act came into force creating what some have described as the most far reaching and toughest anti-bribery and corruption legislation in the world. A British standard (BS 10500) that specified an anti-bribery management system soon followed the act. Many UK businesses involved in infrastructure, particularly those with an international presence, sought to take on board the requirements of the Bribery Act and set up internal systems and procedures with a view to preventing bribery and corruption occurring in their organisations. In addition, a few companies also registered and satisfied the requirements of the British standard.

However, given that the act and standard were seen primarily as British documents, the next step was to create an international standard.  At the helm of this initiative was Neill Stansbury, co-founder and director of the Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Centre which provides resources to assist in the understanding, identification and prevention of corruption in the infrastructure sector. Stansbury was instrumental in producing BS 10500 and more recently in the creation of the international anti-bribery management systems standard ISO 37001, which has now replaced the British standard. 

Creating an international standard on anti-bribery clearly came with its challenges, and as Stansbury described “it was really a United Nations type exercise comprising 59 countries and eight international liaison organisations.’  It was therefore a considerable logistical exercise that lasted over three years.

Stansbury explained that the international standard, like the British one before it, deals only with bribery, and does not address cartels, money-laundering or other criminal activities, although an organisation may choose to extend the scope of its compliance management system to include such activities.  The reason for this is because legal systems internationally have a reasonable level of consensus on the definition of and means of preventing bribery from an organisational perspective.  However, trying to develop a standard which covers all criminal activity would have been a real minefield, and would certainly not have resulted in an agreement in three years! 

Now that a standard has been published, the next stage is to promote its use internationally. In the UK, the Association for Consultancy and Engineering will be updating its members on what the standard means to them while internationally, the standard already has the backing of reputable industry bodies.  

Going forward, it will be interesting to see if compliance with the standard becomes a pre-qualification requirement on major projects. If it does, it will certainly help level the playing field for business and of course the supply chain approval process.