ISO 20121

Improve sustainability of your business in economic, environmental and social fronts. Give your business the power of the ISO 20121 standard & showcase your care for our ecosystem.

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International organization for standardization (ISO) 20121 is a management system standard for the event industry to improve sustainability in the three-dimension manner, namely environmental, economic, and social impacts.

ISO 20121 is related to the British standard of BS 8901, which was first developed in 2007 for a sustainability management system for the events. Later, it was decided to create an international standard pattern to bring awareness across the world. So, in the London Olympics 2012, this model was visibly shown huge success in sustainability management systems by reducing the utility cost of 15% from better waste management and energy use.

Basically, this development initiative was taken by the members of the event industry from all over the world having ample experience in organizing events with sustainable leadership.

ISO 20121 is applicable to all organisations involved in the event industry, which may be small, medium, and large-sized entities. And it extends from caterers, sound engineers, stage builders, security companies, to independent event organizers.

In this contemporary world, our ecosystem is prone to a lot of environmental issues like air pollution, sound pollution, carbon-dioxide emissions, climate change, monsoon failure, etc. these ecological imbalances are to be tackled through innovative measures.

By implementing the ISO 20121 standard in the event organization, it makes sure customers and stakeholders are provided with energy-efficient, cost-effective, and a well-designed waste management system. According to the survey report published by UNFCCC, there will be an increase of 2% of global temperature in the year 2050. So the necessary measures should be taken to preserve the environment, and the appropriate steps to be followed to decrease the severity of the impact.

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Endorsing the ISO 20121 will not only improve the environmental issues, but it will also benefit the event industry more profitable and competitive in the market. Starting from the domestic local festival to London Olympics 2012 and Paralympics games, it has shown a wide range of benefits by reducing the impact on local communities and cost savings through minimizing the waste generated and energy savings.

Similarly, there can be internal benefits of the organization they are

  • Lucidity of purpose and strategy will result in the improved aligned workforce and efficiency of the work.
  • It will develop a responsible integrated management system, and improves creativity among the personnel resulting in improved efficiencies and stronger teamwork.
  • Instigate the motivation of employees, and improve retention.
  • Enlarge the reputation of the organization and promote a healthy relationship between the suppliers, partners, clients, etc.
  • Able to attain maximum cost-cutting strategies with respect to material consumption, recycling waste, and energy savings.
  • It will curb the overall carbon emissions in the entire supply chain events.
  • Enhance the organization.
  • By acquiring the accreditation of ISO 20121, the organization shows that their contribution in protecting the environment and local communities, help in winning the tender in the market and provide a competitive edge over the other event organizers.

    By acquiring this certification, it will help organisation immensely in the following areas;

    Better planning:

    Obtaining an ISO 20121 certification will make the organization for improved planning in arranging the events and this planning should not have any environmental impacts in the ecosystem.

    Promote personnel motivation and retention:

    The employees of the organization will get motivation in organizing the events in an eco-friendly manner, as they are involved in safeguarding the environment, it shows the uniqueness of the organization amidst the society. And it helps in achieving the goals of the organization with a reduced negative effect.

    Financial profit:

    By applying the principles of sustainability, the organization will benefit from all perspectives like reduced wastages, energy conservation, procuring the local products, these all result in cost savings. Similarly, the efficient use of resources will fetch a long term financial benefit.

    Safeguarding the environment:

    There will be a need for sustainable products for organizing a sustainable event. Therefore it eventually results in a harmless environment and creating awareness amidst the public regarding the measures taken by the organization to curb environmental degradation.

    Increased reputation:

    As there has been an increased sustainability issue, organizing an event in a sustainable manner will promote a positive image of the organization in front of the clients both locally and internationally. It marks a unique identity among the consumers and captivates the participants across the world.

    Competitive advantage:

    As an ISO 20121 certified organization, it explicit the advantages over the other organization from the perspective of energy efficiency, cost-saving, recycling methods, minimum use of resources, non-depletion of water resources, eco-green approachment, etc. so, these organization will register a positive footprint in the event arrangements and eventually have an edge over competition than others in the events industry.

    Checklist key clauses of ISO 20121

    Clause 4: Affairs of the organization

    The organization’s vision or goal cannot be achieved because of internal or external issues. So, these should be sorted out by the following requirements, they are

  • The organization and its state of affairs should be completely acknowledged to the employees
  • The requirements of parties and sponsors should be understood and accomplished.
  • The extent of the event sustainability management system should be determined.
  • The governing principles of sustainability management should be made out.
  • Clause 5: Leadership:

    The top administration is responsible for exhibiting initiative and duty, building up a sustainable development strategy and conveying ruled out jobs and duties inside the association.

    Clause 6: Planning:

    One of the most important phases of event sustainability management system is the planning phase, it represents the action to be taken during risks, and state the objective of the sustainable event.

    Clause 7: Support

  • In order to achieve continuous improvement in the event sustainability management system, there should be appropriate resources and proper framework should be established and maintained.
  • Evaluation of workers competence in the organization based on education, training, self-awareness, experience, work capability, mental health, all should be aggregated. These are also one of the necessary factors for the continual improvement of the event industry.
  • The employees involved in the event sustainability management system should be aware of the framework, policy, contribution and implication of the non-conformities for the requirement of the ISO 20121.
  • There should be a proper channel between the employees of the organization and outsiders like group discussion, circulating magazines, and discussion on how to prevent specific hazards and unsafe behavior of the personnel.
  • As per the ISO 20121 standard, the organization should create the manual document and update it regularly. The organization can also include additional information apart from that standard, as being considered as necessary for the event sustainability management system.
  • Clause 8: Operation:

    The planning and control of the association's activities and procedures will be resolved and actualized to address the ESMS execution, destinations, and targets. The association will likewise build up the significance of every one of these goals, targets and plans to service providers to illustrate their capacity to help destinations.

    Clause 9: Performance evaluation:

  • After being accredited under ISO 20121, every organization should keep track of the performance of sustainability management, and periodic reviews should be conducted.
  • The performance can be improved by routine monitoring, analyzing, and evaluation.
  • Similarly, conducting an internal audit and management assessment will also enhance performance.
  • Clause 10: Improvement:

    The organization should evaluate the steps for identifying non-conformities, and take appropriate preventive actions, with corrective measures. By eliminating the causes of non-conformities, the organization will attain sustained improvement.

    Procedure for obtaining the ISO 20121 certification:

    In order to secure an accreditation of ISO 20121, the organization should make a self-assessment on required measures, to meet the prescribed standards and implement them accordingly. They are;

    Acquire the standards manual:

    Before applying for ISO 20121 certification, ensure that the organization meets the prescribed standards, by referring to the manual copy of the ISO 20121.

    Go through the annexure:

    Analyze the clauses, sub-clauses, and explanatory guidance present in the annexure and understand the particulars to be implemented, before conducting any audit.

    Improve skills and proficiency:

    The proficiency of the organization will be improved by acquiring a wide range of knowledge and skills related to the event sustainability management system. Similarly, having an eye on issues like greenhouse gas emissions, water depletion, biodiversity management, will contribute to achieving better sustainability of the organization.

    Conduct a trial event:

    Apart from acquiring the knowledge and skills with respect to event management, conduct sample events and observe the efficiency achieved by the organization and work on the flaws, which downgraded the performance of the entity.


    The most important process is documentation, which states the framework of the functions carried out by the organization. Here, this framework should meet the standards mandated by the ISO 20121 and should be kept up to date to procedures, protocols, and processing of the event management.

    Conduct both internal and external audit:

  • The internal audit can also be called “First-party conformity audit”, which is conducted by anyone from the own organization who has a wide experience and efficiency in analyzing the event sustainability management issues. Similarly, the credibility of the internal audit should be supported by the transparency of the operations, well-documented preface of the organization.
  • The external audit conducted by others apart from their own organization personnel. It can be referred to as a “second party conformity audit”. This external body will scrutinize the documentation, level of standards achieved and submits his independent review against the conformity
  • Certifying body audit:

    This is the final body or third party audit conducted by the accreditation certifying authority, which carries out his/her independent audit and evaluates the sustainability management of the organization. Once the requirement of the ISO 20121 is met, the accreditation will be awarded to the respective organization by this final body

    Documents required

    There are certain documents required to acquire the ISO 20121 accreditation.

  • Documentation for the scope of management system.
  • Documentation on the governing principles of sustainable development of the organization.
  • Documentation on the sustainable development policy.
  • Documentation related to organizational roles and responsibilities, carried out by the personnel.
  • Documentary evidence on the competency of the employees, authorities, and internal auditors.
  • Documentation on the action taken after the engagement of interested parties.
  • Documentation on the procedure for sustainability issues identification, and other emerging legal compliances.
  • Document on operational planning and control of wastes, traffic, energy, catering, procurement, safety, communication.
  • Documentation with respect to the collection of performance of the personnel.
  • Documentation on the internal audit report.
  • Documentation proof for the resolution taken in the top management meeting regarding sustainability.
  • Documentation proof on the inclusion of consideration of continuous improvement, objectives, and targets.
  • Documentation on the investigation conducted on non-conformities.
  • FAQs on ISO 20121

    Is ISO 20121 and BS8901 the same?

    No, the ISO 20121 and BS 8901 are not the same document. It can be said that BS8901 is the pioneer for ISO 20121. The BS 8901 is a British based standard for a sustainable event management system. The ISO 20121 is an internationally recognized standard that evolved from the inspiration of BS 8901.

    How should I know that this standard is applicable to me?

    If you are related to the event industry management then it is applicable to you, similarly, this standard is provided to all event industry across the world, irrespective of the size of the organization. Even it can extend to an event supplier also.

    What is the cost required for an ISO 20121 accreditation?

    It can be obtained from the national standard body and the cost involved for the accreditation depends on the size of the event organizers, and the services involved in it. Mostly it will be budget-friendly for all types of event entities.

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