Research Topics


The U4 Blog

Learning & events

About Us

U4 Issue

Getting the most out of the ISO 37001 standard

How development aid agencies can benchmark and add value in anti-corruption activities

The ISO 37001 standard presents a benchmark to define an anti-bribery management system. It also provides a state-of-the-art framework for use by any organisation to comply with national anti-bribery laws and regulations. Yet, its structure, costs, and requirements mean full implementation and certification are of little interest to development aid agencies. The standard can nonetheless serve as an inspiration and guide for development agencies and projects in key areas.

14 June 2021
Download PDFRead short version
Loading PDF…

Main points

  • ISO 37001 provides a summary of the best tools for bribery risk management. It also aims to establish a framework for compliance with national anti-bribery laws. Its requirements offer a benchmark for organisations to check or build an anti-bribery management system (ABMS). In this respect, it can be a valuable tool to uncover and limit the risk of corruption. It can improve the business environment, good governance, and development issues.
  • However, the full implementation of an ABMS based on ISO 37001 and its certification is unlikely to be of interest to aid agencies. Time and budget constraints, lack of expertise in this area, as well as governance issues, would impede its full deployment. Aid agencies working in developing countries need ‘quick wins’ and to prioritise limited resources towards programme activities.
  • Despite this, the ISO 37001 standard could be useful for development aid agencies at the headquarters level. It would allow them to define or improve an anti-corruption strategy. It could also help agencies think about how to manage corruption risks at the operational level. For example, it can provide guidance for due diligence operations (especially for cash transfers or core support to non-governmental organisations).
  • ISO 37001 certification might additionally be useful for development agencies involved in multi-stakeholder partnerships, and in pooled funds or blended finance schemes. This is especially so when they are working in high bribery-risk contexts. In such cases, agencies can recommend ISO 37001 certification to their partners.

Cite this publication

Nicaise, G.; (2021) Getting the most out of the ISO 37001 standard. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2021:9)

Download PDFRead short version

About the author

Guillaume Nicaise is a Senior Adviser for the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre at the Chr. Michelsen Institute. He leads U4’s work on corruption risk management and the private sector. He previously worked for the German and Belgian development agencies – GIZ and BTC. He also has work experience from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and NATO itself, as well as the International Crisis Group. Nicaise completed a PhD on the transfer of good governance norms in Rwanda and Burundi from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


bribery, corruption risk assessment, development cooperation, aid