What is ISO 20121?

What is ISO 20121?

ISO 20121 is a standard that specifies requirements for an event sustainability management system and provides guidance on conforming to them. It is applicable to any organization that wishes to establish, implement, maintain and improve an event sustainability management system and to conform with its sustainable development policy.

The purpose of ISO 20121 is to help event organizers and suppliers reduce the negative social, economic and environmental impacts of their events, and enhance the positive ones. It covers all stages of an event’s supply chain, from planning to implementation, and includes monitoring and measuring guidelines.

ISO 20121 is based on the principle of continual improvement, which means that organizations are encouraged to evaluate their performance and seek ways to improve it over time. It also follows the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, which is a common approach for managing processes and systems.

ISO 20121 was developed by experts from the event industry, with input from various stakeholders, such as governments, NGOs, consumers and academics. It was first published in 2012 and revised in 2021. It is compatible with other management system standards, such as ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment).

ISO 20121 is an international standard that helps event organizers and suppliers to manage the social, economic and environmental impacts of their events. It provides a framework for planning, implementing and evaluating event sustainability practices, and aims to promote more responsible consumption and production in the event industry.

According to ISO, the standard is applicable to any type of event or event-related activity, regardless of its size, location or duration. It covers all stages of the event management cycle, from conception to closure, and addresses issues such as stakeholder engagement, procurement, resource management, accessibility, legacy and innovation.

ISO 20121 was developed by experts from various countries and sectors, with input from stakeholders such as event organizers, industry associations, government agencies, NGOs and academia. It was first published in 2012 and revised in 2021. It is based on the principles of sustainable development and follows the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach of management system standards.


Sustainability event planning cannot only be viewed as an environmental subject, but also as a social, economic and financial matter. We are looking at increasing positive and decreasing negative impact such as facilitating economic benefit, reducing environmental footprints, and managing issues in consideration of the society human rights from the most privileged to the less privileged, across races, educations, and even gender sensitivities. So, basically sustainability is an approach that reduces the environmental impact, while trying to maintain equilibrium between the three principles.

Benefits of ISO 20121 Certification

Benefits of ISO 20121 Certification

Some of the benefits of implementing ISO 20121 are:

– It can help you save costs by reducing waste and energy consumption

– It can enhance your reputation and brand image by demonstrating your commitment to sustainability

– It can increase stakeholder satisfaction and loyalty by engaging them in your sustainability efforts

– It can foster innovation and creativity by encouraging new ways of thinking and doing things

– It can improve your risk management and compliance by identifying and addressing potential issues

– Reducing the negative impacts and enhancing the positive impacts of events on people, planet and profit

– Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of event operations and processes

– Saving costs and resources by minimizing waste and optimizing resource use

– Enhancing the reputation and credibility of event organizers and suppliers

– Increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty by meeting their expectations and needs

– Demonstrating leadership and innovation in the event industry

– Contributing to the global goals of sustainable development

HOW To conform with ISO 20121?

– Establish an event sustainability policy that reflects its vision, values and objectives

– Identify its significant sustainability issues and impacts related to its events

– Set sustainability goals and targets that are measurable, achievable and relevant

– Implement actions and controls to address its sustainability issues and impacts

– Monitor and measure its performance against its goals and targets

– Evaluate its performance and identify opportunities for improvement

– Communicate its performance and achievements to its stakeholders


Conformity with ISO 20121 can be demonstrated by self-declaration, external verification or certification by an accredited body. Some examples of events that have used or achieved ISO 20121 are:


– The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

– The Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games

– The Eurovision Song Contest 2013 in Malmö, Sweden

– The Balélec Music Festival 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland

– The World Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

If you are interested in implementing ISO 20121 in your organization, you can contact us for more information. We are a certified ISO 20121 consultant that can help you design, develop, implement, audit, and improve your EMS. We have the expertise, experience, and tools to help you achieve your environmental goals.