A Guide to ISO 22301: Business Continuity Management Systems


The ISO introduced the latest version of ISO 22301 in 2019. This framework includes strategies, standards, and requirements organisations can use to implement a business continuity management system (BCMS).

To appeal to and assist the most comprehensive array of organisations, ISO 22301 includes generic regulatory requirements that organisations can implement to improve organisational resilience in various contexts. The extent to which an organisation must implement each requirement will significantly depend upon the organisation’s type, size, industry, and overall nature.

Keep reading to discover more about ISO 22301, the benefits of implementing an ISO-certified BCMS, and the importance of constructing a comprehensive business continuity plan.


ISO 22301:2019 is the latest rendition of ISO 22301, initially released in 2012. The framework is the leading international standard for business continuity management systems and explores strategies organisations can implement to mitigate disruptions and develop strong business plans.

While the standards of ISO 22301:2012 and ISO 22301:2019 are similar, the latest rendition was released to streamline the implementation of BCMS standards and expand upon several concepts to address the needs and challenges a broader range of organisations faces.

Both renditions of ISO 22301 communicate the need for management review and involvement and the importance of business resilience, especially in an era where cyber attacks are becoming more prevalent and severe.

What is a Business Continuity Management System (BCMS)?

A BCMS combines emergency management strategies, information security tactics, and disaster recovery principles that allow an organisation to recover and maintain operations during crises, such as an IT system failure or cybersecurity breach.

All comprehensive business continuity management systems will include a business continuity plan (BCP). A BCP outlines how an organisation will respond when faced with an emergency or severe disruption.


While an organisation’s BCP will be specific to its needs, industry, and challenges, most BCPs include some combination of the following critical elements:

  • Business impact analysis (BIA): The process of identifying and assessing the impact potential disruptive incidents (anything from a cyber attack to a natural disaster) could cause and the business operations they would affect
  • Risk assessments: Risk management procedures to assess potential risks and prioritize business processes to protect in various crisis management situations
  • Business continuity strategy: An outline of the steps an organisation will take to mitigate interruptions, improve recovery time, and keep the business running in the event of a disruption
  • Recovery team: Key personnel from all departments of the organisation that will execute the organisation’s business continuity strategy and oversee communications to key stakeholders and interested parties
  • Communication plan: Protocols that outline what team members will be responsible for communicating critical information to internal and external parties during a disruption

Benefits of a Business Continuity Management System

Unpredictable events can cause disruptions to any successful business. Creating and maintaining a comprehensive BCMS is the best way for an organisation to identify, assess, and plan for disruptions.

Overall, business continuity management systems allow organisations to:

  • Maintain business operations during disruptive incidents
  • Recover operations quickly after interruptions occur
  • Reduce the impact and cost of any disruption
  • Reduce the duration of any disruption
  • Reduce costs and time of any disruption
  • Install risk management strategies and risk mitigation tactics
  • Develop a culture of continual improvement
  • Forge customer trust and build confidence
  • Protect organisational and industry reputation
  • Develop internal confidence and good practice
  • Comply with legal and industry regulatory requirements

Why is ISO 22301 Important?

ISO 22301 is critical for organisations looking to improve their contingency planning and disaster recovery strategies because the framework includes management system standards to elevate all areas of an operation.

ISO constructs all of its frameworks with similar elements to consider the same principles of an organisation. These principles include:

  • Context of the organisation (understanding needs, compliance risk assessments, subsidiary risk)
  • Leadership (roles and responsibilities, compliance officers, anti-bribery management systems, and compliance framework obligations)
  • Planning (implementation, objectives, planning for changes)
  • Support (resources, awareness, communication)
  • Operation (internal controls, sustainability, due diligence)
  • Performance evaluation (internal audits, top management review)
  • Improvement (promoting a culture of continuous improvement)

In addition to being a comprehensive framework, ISO 22301 is also certifiable, meaning organisations can achieve certification with ISO 22301 and demonstrate the prowess of their BCMS to potential customers, clients, third-party partners, and other interested parties throughout their industry.

Benefits of ISO 22301

When an organisation meets the requirements of ISO 22301, it becomes better equipped to handle disruptions and maintains a better grasp on the risks that could affect daily operations.

Given ISO 22301 includes standards that aim to improve all aspects of an organisation, its benefits are somewhat endless. Most organisations that pursue ISO 22301 certification will at least inherit the following benefits:

  • Continue to meet business objectives during emergency events and times of crisis
  • Increase organisation-wide preparedness to deal with unforeseen interruptions
  • Gain a competitive advantage over organisations that do not meet ISO standards
  • Foster an exceptional reputation and credibility within the industry
  • Develop excellent organisational resilience and business continuity
  • Decrease downtime and the impact of disruptive incidents
  • Meet the demands of all legal and regulatory requirements
  • Establish protocols to conduct internal assessments using critical metrics

How do ISO 22301 and ISO 27001 Relate?

ISO 22301 and ISO 27001 are two of the most popular ISO frameworks. However, each framework communicates standards for very different business procedures. While ISO 22301 develops standards for business continuity management systems, ISO 27001 focuses on information security management systems (ISMS).

The two frameworks relate in the sense that ISO 22301 perceives an organisation’s information security to be exceptionally vulnerable during times of crisis. Organisations looking to elevate their risk management strategies across the board will want to implement the standards of ISO 22301 and ISO 27001.

Other popular ISO standards include ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 37301 (compliance management).

What is the Certification Process for ISO 22301?

Organisations implementing ISO 22301 standards can apply for certification from any certification body that has obtained industry-recognised accreditation. While the exact certification process will vary, most ISO 22301 certification processes follow these steps


  • Initial certification: An initial meeting between the certification body and the organisation to conduct a gap analysis and discuss the entirety of the certification process
  • Pre-audit planning meeting: An optional meeting that provides the organisation the opportunity to ask questions and understand what standards it still needs to implement to achieve certification
  • ISO 22301 audit: An assessment completed by the certification body that analyzes the organisation’s BCMS and determines if the organization has implemented all necessary standards to achieve certification
  • Audit report: During this stage of the process, the certification body will discuss its findings and indicate whether the organisation has achieved certification. If the organization did not earn certification, the certification body will outline where the organisation needs to improve
  • Surveillance audits: After an organisation achieves certification, the certification body will conduct regular audits to ensure the organisation continues to meet the standards of ISO 22301. Certification bodies typically complete surveillance audits once per year
  • Recertification: Most ISO 22301 certificates are valid for three years. After its certificate expires, the organisation can apply for recertification. The certification body will then once again follow the certification process and award the organisation a new certificate

Is ISO 22301 Mandatory?

ISO 22301 is not mandatory for any organisation. However, organisations that operate in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, technology, or finance should pursue certification to develop a competitive advantage and demonstrate a positive reputation for security and business resilience.