ISO 20121

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ISO 20121 is the internationally recognized standard for event sustainability management

An event is a planned public or social occasion. Whether it is a festival or a trade fair, an outdoor public event or a concert in a sports hall, a corporate conference or a happy hour in a small bar, it makes no difference. The ISO 20121:2012 standard is applicable to any type of event, regardless of the type, frequency, size and breadth of the target audience.

ISO 20121 is aimed at organisations who wish to adopt a sustainable management system for an event, covering ethical, environmentally responsible and economic impacts. It is not the event itself that is audited, but the management system.

The three categories of stakeholders are:

Direct organizers, e.g. studios for planning, booking agencies for concerts and theatrical performances, corporate event offices (with marketing-related purposes) and in public administration (with cultural and territorial promotion purposes), cultural associations, conference centres;

Managers of locations suitable for holding events e.g. clubs, sports arenas, fairgrounds, hotels, stadiums, theatres, parks, public streets and squares;

Providers of services that enable events to take place e.g. audio-visual services, catering, cleaning and transportation companies, guard and stewardship services and temporary agencies.

ISO 20121 shares many similarities and requirements in common with ISO ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and 45001. It also incorporates many requirements contained in ISO 26000. The scheme requires the organization to define its objectives for continuous improvement in terms of environmental, economic and social impacts and to prepare a management system to achieve them.

Main elements and content of the Standard

10-paragraph structure shared with the 2015 revisions of ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and 45001 (high-level structure).

Plan-Do-Check-Act plan as reflected in the event life cycle

Definition of purpose and scope (in the case of organizers, it is possible to mention a single event, a series of events, all events covered, or the organization)

Stakeholder analysis and involvement

Policy for sustainability

Careful analysis of relevant environmental, economic and social aspects and actions to address them

General and industry legislative compliance

Analysis and management of risks and identification of opportunities

Design of supply chain management

Continuous improvement



 Easy integration with other management systems

Integrated approach to organizational event management

Improved reputation and adoption of best practices

Competitive advantage e.g. tenders, new business

Reduced costs (through waste reduction, reduced energy consumption, and equipment reuse)

Risk reduction

Enhancement of corporate image and brand

Increased control of objectives and performance


Certification Process

The Certification process consists of the following steps:


Request for proposal

  • Contract between the company and the Certification Body
  • Submission to the Certification Body of the documentation necessary to start the certification process


Documentation evaluation

  • (Stage 1) Verification of the documentary requirements necessary for certification
  • (Stage 2) Certification audit  - verification of the efficiency of the Sustainability Management System through dialogue with managers and analysis of documentation


Audit report

  • Preparation and review of report 


Issue of Certificate

  • Issue of certificate on meeting Standard requirements.
  • Certificate is valid for 3 years


Annual surveillance audit

  • Two annual surveillance visits are mandatory
  • On the third year a Re-Certification Audit will take place and the Certificate will be renewed

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