Events must be organized and carried out in a responsible manner that helps society and the environment because they have a significant unfavourable impact on both. The ISO 20121 standard encourages responsible consumption, the creation of local infrastructure, ecologically friendly buildings and transportation, and the respectful management of already-existing local environments and cultures. It offers direction and suggestions for managing the event while minimizing its negative social, economic, and environmental effects.

BS 8901, an older British standard that addressed sustainability management systems for events, served as the foundation for ISO 20121. The goal of that standard is to encourage both event planners and suppliers to take action to reduce the negative effects of event delivery while also increasing awareness and understanding of the impact of events. Later, to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics, a new international version of the standard was developed. Moreover, ISO 20121 applies to events of all kinds, from modest conference gatherings to sizable athletic events, and it can be used in any nation.

It is possible to implement the ISO 20121 event sustainability management system on a single event, a string of events, or an entire organization. Also, it can be used by freelance event planners, corporate event planning groups, and event suppliers (venues, caterers, lighting and sound engineers, and transportation). While claiming compliance with the global ISO 20121 standard can be challenging and needs some legal difficulties, it is generally an easy process. There are numerous ways to demonstrate compliance after the sustainable event management system has been put into place:

  • by maintaining compliance,
  • by having a third-party audit and making a statement of conformance, or
  • by having a third party that is authorized to audit and certify the system certify it

The most typical means of demonstrating compliance with ISO 20121 are the first two alternatives. The third is more expensive and is only used when necessary due to client or stakeholder requests or unique situations. Auditing or certification activities are not conducted by ISO itself. So, the credibility of the person proclaiming, auditing, or certifying the claim to conformity depends on their credibility. To that aim, transparency is highly encouraged, so be sure to refrain from "green-washing" while showcasing sustainable event management.

Modern solutions are offered by ISO 20121 to handle the numerous sustainability issues that could arise before, during, and following an event. The standard gives users a framework to identify issues pertinent to their context, define goals, make action plans, evaluate their performance, and strive for continuous development. It enables businesses to adapt to various social, cultural, and geographic contexts while emphasizing on:

  • Sustainable procurement
  • Reporting and transparency
  • An event's social, environmental, and economic consequences

Now, let's look at the key factors to comprehend about the ISO 20121 Standard.

  • ISO 20121 standard specification: The standard describes the components of the management system that a company must have. Before the organization can claim compliance with the standard, it must have all the components outlined in the standard in place.  
  • ISO 20121 does not serve as a checklist: The standard is not a checklist, but rather a more comprehensive ISO 20121 documents that define the components of a management system that a company must have in place.
  • ISO 20121 is challenging to understand: However, international standards such as ISO 20121 are defined in a manner that many individuals find difficult to understand. As a result, individuals may seek the support of an ISO 20121 consultantin understanding the requirements. Our ISO 20121 Team has created a Guide to ISO 20121 that gives a clear, step-by-step roadmap for meeting the standard's requirements.
  • ISO 20121 is associated with the management system: The standard applies to enterprises' management systems for delivering event-related activities, products, and services. The management system used by the organization, not the event, is ISO 20121 compliant.
  • ISO 20121 may necessitate the implementation of new techniques: All organizations have some sort of management system since otherwise, they wouldn't be in existence; it may just not be documented or conceptualized using the language used in the standard. According to our observations, the majority of firms already comply with up to 70% of the requirements. As a result, reaching ISO 20121 may not necessitate a drastic change but rather the adoption of new practices.
  • ISO 20121 does not establish performance targets: The guideline does not specify which sustainability issues must be addressed or what performance goals must be met. The standard demands that an organization implements a transparent process for systematically evaluating issues related to its operations and setting objectives and targets for improvement.