ISO 37000 - the first ever international benchmark for good governance

ISO 37000:2021 Governance of organizations — Guidance provides organizations and their governing bodies the tools they need to govern well, enabling them to perform effectively while behaving ethically and responsibly. 

Purpose and sustainability are now at the heart of governance, as governing bodies of all types of organizations are being called on, more than ever, to ensure that their organizations act with purpose, sustainability and society in mind in a rapidly changing world and challenging times.  

Good governance not only builds trust, it improves business performance and contributes to social and environmental integrity.

Developed by experts and trusted voices from a wide range of organizations in over 70 countries around the world, ISO 37000 provides a single, globally accepted, benchmark for good governance. 

What is the scope of ISO 37000?

ISO 37000 gives guidance on the governance of organizations. 

It is applicable to all organizations regardless of type, size, location, structure or purpose.

The standard provides principles and key aspects of practices to guide governing bodies and governing groups on how to meet their responsibilities so that the organizations they govern can fulfil their purpose. 

ISO 37000 is important for all other stakeholders involved in, or impacted by, the organization as it provides clear guidance on what should be expected for the organization’s effective governance.

Principles of organizational governance - an overview

At the heart of all organizations is purpose, i.e. a meaningful reason to exist. Values inform both the purpose and the way the purpose is achieved. ISO 37000 sets out guidance to help governing bodies clarify the purpose and values, ensure that strategy is aligned with this intent and ensure value is generated for all relevant stakeholders to strategically achieve purpose in line with the values. The standard outlines how this requires a carefully considered approach to stakeholder engagement, and a systemic, long-term and proactive view of appropriate risk so that the organization remains viable over time.

ISO 37000 also reinforces the critical need for effective oversight, in particular through a clear-cut internal control system and reliable assurance processes.

Accountability at all levels is another principle at the heart of good governance: neither the members of the governing body nor those to whom power has been delegated stand above the law. The governing body is ultimately accountable for the actions and omissions of the organization, hence governing bodies need to ensure they define roles and responsibilities and have a well-functioning reporting and accountability system in place.

ISO 37000 further stresses that leaders set the tone for an ethical organizational culture, need to ensure the strategic and responsible use of data and to ensure that decisions are transparent and aligned with broader societal expectations.  

Figure 1 - Governance of organizations - Overview (source: ISO 37001:2021)


ISO 37000 principles in a nutshell

ISO 37000 is global future proofed purpose centric guidance reflecting what boards need to know to make better governance decisions in an uncertain world where sustainability over the longer term is what matters most.
The guidance explains what good governance looks like across eleven mission critical topics:

  1. Purpose: reason for existence from all perspectives 
  2. Value Model: the elements comprising value creation and value generation required to fulfil purpose
  3. Strategy: directing and engaging strategies in accordance with the value generation model 
  4. Oversight: overseeing organisational performance and ensuring that the organisation fulfils all expectations
  5. Accountability: holding to account those to whom the governing body has delighted authority(s)
  6. Stakeholder engagement: engaging with stakeholders and meeting expectations 
  7. Leadership: ethical and effective leadership arrangements
  8. Data and decisions: data as a resource for decision making
  9. Risk Governance: the effect of uncertainty on organisational purpose and strategic outcomes
  10. Social responsibility: transparent decision making aligned with broader societal expectations 
  11. Viability and performance over time: remaining viable over time without compromising current and future generations 

ISO 37000 provides guidance and does not introduce further regulation

ISO 37000:2021 Governance of organizations — Guidance, does not add additional regulatory requirements. Instead, it is designed to be enabling and complementary. 

Figure 2 - Hierarchy of Laws, Guidelines and Other Acts impacting Governance of Organizations

Unique advantages of an ISO guidance standard on governance
ISO 37000 How
Is enabling

ISO 37000 does not introduce additional regulation – instead it:

  • Introduces enabling guidance for countries, sectors and organizational types where none is currently available.
  • Enables the application of existing, sector or jurisdiction specific regulations.
Enables comparison

ISO 37000 is the international consensus benchmark that makes comparison across all organizational types, sectors, and countries possible

Is complementary

Users of the existing 23,000+ ISO standards have guidance on the work of the governing body and others involved in governance

Is inclusive

ISO 37000 has been developed using the most advanced global consensus building process which is built for broad multi-stakeholder participation and benefits from a network of 168 national standard organisations. This means that users can be assured that the guidance represents the benchmark for organizational governance  



















See how consensus was reached on ISO 37000

ISO 37000:2021 Governance of organizations - Guidance was developed by the ISO technical committee ISO/TC 309, Governance of organizations, whose secretariat is held by BSI, the ISO National standards Body for the UK.

It can be purchased from your national ISO member or the ISO Store.


Useful ISO 37000-related links

ISO/TC 309 ongoing work

ISO's Online Browsing Platform (provides access to ISO 37000 Introduction, Terms & Definitions)

ISO 37000 endorsements

ISO 37000 - reaching consensus

ISO/TC 309 members and liaison organizations 



Want to get involved?

Standards are developed by the people who need them – that could mean you. Technical committees include experts from both standards and industry and these experts are put forward by ISO’s national members. If you want to help shape future standards in your field, contact your national member

External liaison organizations may also apply to be involved in the work, provided they meet certain criteria (e.g. not for profit, membership based with a process for stakeholder engagement and consensus decision-making). Please contact TC309 Secretary for more information.


Lily Elliot
Lily Elliot
Secretary, ISO/TC 309/WG 1