New website for ISO's Event Sustainability Management System

A new website is available to help those interested in ISO’s Event Sustainability Management System.

ISO 20121 is a management system standard that has been designed to help organisations in the events industry improve the sustainability of their event related activities, products and services.

ISO 20121 is based on the earlier British Standard called ‘BS 8901 Specification for a Sustainability Management System for Events’ which was first developed in 2007. Due to the high level interest in BS 8901, it was decided to create an international version of the standard to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics.

In simple terms, ISO 20121 describes the building blocks of a management system that will help any event related organisation to:

  • Continue to be financially successful
  • Become more socially responsible
  • Reduce its environmental footprint

ISO 20121 applies to all types and sizes of organisation involved in the events industry – from caterers, lighting and sound engineers, security companies, stage builders and venues to independent event organisers and corporate and public sector event teams.

Six important points to understand about the ISO 20121 Standard

1. ISO 20121 is a “specification”

The standard specifies the management system elements that an organisation has to have in place. All the elements described in the standard must be in place prior to the organisation being able to claim compliance with the standard.

2. ISO 20121 is not a checklist

The standard is not a checklist but is a more complex document that describes the elements of a management system that an organisation has to have in place.

3. ISO 20121 is difficult to understand

Unfortunately, international standards such as ISO 20121 are written in a way that is often unintelligible to many people. Consequently, you may need help in interpreting the requirements. Our ISO 20121 Team has developed a Guide to ISO 20121 that provides a plain and simple step by step roadmap on how to meet the requirements of the standard.

4. ISO 20121 is about the management system

The standard applies to the management system used by organisations in delivering their event related activities, products and services. It is the management system operated by the organisation that is compliant with ISO20121, not the event.  (Note: a management system is the set of interrelated or interacting elements that are used to establish policies and objectives, and the processes to achieve those objectives.)

5. ISO 20121 may require the adoption of new practices

All organisations have a management system of some kind otherwise they would not be in business, it just might not be written down or thought of in the terms used within the standard. In our experience, most organisations are already doing up to 70% of what the standard requires. Hence achieving ISO 20121 may not require any radical change but is likely to require the adoption of new practices.

6. ISO 20121 does not set performance requirements

The standard does not specify which sustainability issues to manage or what performance levels to achieve. What the standard requires is that an organisation has in place a transparent process through which it systematically evaluates the issues relevant to its operations and sets its own objectives and targets for improvement.

What are the benefits of ISO 20121?

As ISO 20121 is simply a business management framework, adopting it can bring a number of internal benefits to an organisation including:

  • Clarity of purpose and strategy resulting in a more energised and aligned workforce
  • More integrated management and joined up thinking resulting in improved efficiencies and stronger teamwork
  • Simpler, clearer and more effective systems and processes

Our experience has shown that the standard is particularly useful for smaller organisations as it provides a robust framework for running a business as well as standardised procedures and processes which enable the rapid integration of new staff.

As the standard requires social and environmental issues to be addressed, this can help to:

  • Boost employee motivation, attract best talent and improve retention
  • Enhance 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
  • Strengthen the position of the organisation within the community

ISO 20121 challenges “business as usual” and drives creativity and innovation which in turn can provide organisations with a competitive edge.

What are the benefits of ISO 20121 Certification?

One of the key benefits of ISO 20121 certification is that it will enable an organisation to differentiate itself in the marketplace and hence improve their chance of winning new business.   Major public sector and private sector clients are referencing ISO 20121 in their tender documents as they work to ensure that their own sustainability policies are being implemented.

In time, demonstrating compliance to ISO 20121 is likely to become a minimum requirement for anyone wishing to operate in the events industry as event clients, sponsors, local authorities and other key stakeholders choose to work with organisations that have implemented the standard.

What help is available to you?

The ISO 20121 Team has developed a range of services to assist you on your way to ISO 20121:

  • ISO 20121 Checklist – a simple checklist that will help you understand how you are positioned with respect to ISO 20121 and where the main gaps are in your management system
  • ISO 20121 Briefing – a 1 to 2 hour briefing presentation to help you understand ISO 20121 and to get you going. This can be delivered in-person or on-line (Skype)
  • ISO 20121 Training – an in-house half or 1 day intense training course on ISO 20121
  • ISO 20121 Guide – an easy to understand Guide to ISO 20121 that provides a step-by-step roadmap to help you on your way to ISO 20121
  • ISO 20121 Toolkit – a toolkit of example documents and templates that will help you create the necessary elements of the management system that are needed
  • ISO 20121 Certification – when you are ready, the Team are able to undertake a certification assessment of your organisation to provide you with a formal Certificate of Conformance to ISO 20121

About the ISO 20121 Team

We are a small team of experienced individuals dedicated to helping improve the sustainability of the events industry. We were involved in creating the initial British Standard BS 8901 and also in developing ISO 20121. We have helped over 50 organisations develop and implement event sustainability management systems, many of which are now certified.

Our goal is to help you understand ISO 20121 by taking the jargon out of the standard and to build your capability and knowledge to enable you to make the changes needed to your management system to achieve ISO 20121. We pride ourselves in being able to provide a simple and low cost route to achieve ISO 20121 without the need for consultants or expensive training courses.

We wish you all the best on your journey to ISO 20121.

The ISO 20121 Team


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