ISO 20121: Event Sustainability Management Systems

ISO 20121: Event Sustainability Management Systems

ISO 20121 is an international standard that establishes the requirements to help organizations and individuals improve the sustainability of their event-related activities. It offers a practical tool so that the activities, products and services related to an event can contribute to the three dimensions of sustainability – economic, environmental and social.

This standard, officially known as ISO 20121:2012, Event sustainability management systems – Requirements with guidance for use was published on June 2012 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It was based on the earlier British Standard called ‘BS 8901 Specification for a Sustainability Management System for Events’ and its development involved members of the event industry from around the world who have experience of event management and sustainability leadership initiatives.

ISO 20121 can be used in any country and for all sizes of events, from small conference meetings to large-scale sporting events.

ISO 20121 provides state-of-the-art solutions to address the many sustainability challenges that can emerge before, during and after an event. The standard provides a framework for users to identify issues relevant to their context, set targets, create action plans, monitor and measure their performance and pursue continual improvement. It allows organizations to accommodate diverse geographical, cultural and social conditions while focusing on:

  • Sustainable procurement.
  • Reporting and transparency.
  • Social, environmental and economic impacts of an event.

This standard is applicable to all types and sizes of organizations involved in the design and delivery of events. It can be used in any country and for all sizes of events, from small conference meetings to large-scale sporting events.



ISO 20121 is designed to offer benefits to all actors involved in the organization of an event, at all stages of the supply chain such as event organizers, event owners, workforce, supply chain (caterers, transport companies, construction, etc.), participants, attendees, regulatory bodies and communities. Some benefits users can expect from implementing this standard include:

  • Improved efficiencies and stronger teamwork from everyone involved.
  • Simpler, clearer and more effective systems and processes.
  • Enhance employee motivation, attract best talent and improve retention.
  • Improve reputation and strengthen relationships with key clients, suppliers, partners and other external stakeholders who hold similar values.
  • Achieve costs savings with respect to material consumption, waste and energy.
  • Reduce carbon emissions over the entire event supply chain.
  • Provides reassurance that the business has all economic, environmental and social impacts under control.
  • Strengthen the position of the organization within the community.
  • Helps an organization identify and manage its legal responsibilities.

ISO 20121 can be implemented as a stand-alone standard or it can be integrated to an organization’s existing management systems such as ISO 9001 (quality) or ISO 14001 (environmental).

The use of this standard is voluntary. Organizations that implement it may do so only for the internal and external benefits it provides or they may decide to seek certification to the standard as an independent verification of conformity to its requirements. No matter what an organization decides, ISO 20121 will ensure an organized, process-based approach to managing economic, environmental and social impacts in any event.