How do we Manage Conflict of Interest at Assent?

I recently saw a list of questions someone suggested asking potential ISO Consultants before selecting one to help them achieve their ISO Certification.

It’s always interesting to see the other side of the procurement process and attempt to understand what drives a client’s choice of ISO Consultant.

Of course, at Assent, we always want to be in the number one spot!

Sharing this list with the Assent team, we were pleased that the majority of the questions we could easily and publicly address.

For example, we have an excellent track record of helping clients achieve many different ISO Certifications across various industries, many of which you can find on our case studies page.

We also have excellent consultants with relevant industry experience and professional qualifications, such as IRCA Accredited Lead Auditor training. 

However, the question about managing conflict of interest is one that although we have under control, we don’t publicly address… until now!

Our Commitment to You as the Client

Firstly let’s make clear our commitment as consultants and auditors is to act in the best interest of the client at all times.

We have adopted this through our Ethical & Professional Conduct Policy, based on ISO 20700 which sets out Guidelines for Management Consultancy Services, and we build this commitment into all our operational processes.

What is a Conflict of Interest?

A broad definition of a Conflict of Interest is…..”a situation in which the aims of different parties are incompatible”, for example where acting in the best interests of one client would adversely affect another. An institution or person has a conflict of interest when their personal (or self-serving) interests collide with their professional obligations or responsibilities. 

Thankfully this situation is unlikely to arise through our consultancy work. 

Examples of Conflict of Interest in ISO Consultancy

Although it is uncommon, some circumstances might result in a conflict of interest.

1. Work for Competing Clients

In most cases working with several clients from the same industry is an advantage, as it helps us refine our skills and knowledge to provide the best level of service to everyone.

However, we appreciate that our consultants may occasionally come into contact with commercially sensitive information.

Of course, in the first instance, we adhere to strict non-disclosure agreements contained within our standard contract AND any additional agreements the client may wish us to subscribe to.

Often the nature of our work does not require us to view trade secrets or highly sensitive information, however, if this is a feature of a particular assignment we can put in place further “air-gaps” to ensure that any potential conflicts are managed, including allocating different consultants to competing clients’ projects.

2. Involvement in Both Consultancy & Certification for the same client,

The biggest conflict of interest in our industry is where the same people are involved in delivering both the consultancy and certification activities.

Assent risk management only provides consultancy services and we rely on accredited Certification Bodies around the world to provide impartial ISO Certification.

However, we recognise that many certification bodies use subcontractors, as we do, and occasionally these may intersect.

So we require all our consultants to disclose any potential conflicts of interest before accepting an assignment.  

Managing Conflict of Interest

If we become aware of a potential conflict of interest we enter this into our “conflict of interest register” and inform everyone involved in the project. 

If we assess the risk of a conflict is likely to affect the integrity of the assignment, we will take action to control that risk which might include changing the people who work on the assignment.

Report & Meeting Note Reviews

A standard part of our process at Assent is to have our office team review audit reports and meeting notes before they are sent to the client.

This provides several functions such as quality control and confidentiality, but we also use this step to identify any risks or conflicts of interest that may exist.

Find our More: Internal Audit Report Review Process – Assent Risk Management 

Summary

We take the integrity of our services very seriously and do not tolerate risks that could impact the delivery to our clients.

Thankfully due to the nature of our business and the controls we have in place, conflict of interest issues are rare and well managed. 

We would love to be your ISO Consultants to implement a new standard in your business or provide internal audits for an existing system.  

Contact our team to find out how we can help!

Robert Clements
Robert Clements
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