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New ISO 20121 standard for sustainable events management

by Roger Frost on
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ISO has just published a new standard to support the organizers of events of all types – sporting, business, cultural, political – in integrating sustainability with their activities.

ISO 20121:2012, Event sustainability management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, is suitable for ensuring that events, ranging from local celebrations to "mega events" such as the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, leave behind a positive legacy. The standard is relevant to all members of the event industry supply chain including organizers, event managers, stand builders, caterers and logistics suppliers.

Conferences, concerts, sporting events, exhibitions and festivals can offer a wide range of public, local community and economic benefits. However staging an event can also generate negative economic, environmental and social impacts, such as material waste, energy consumption and strains on local communities.

ISO 20121 provides the framework for identifying the potentially negative social, economic and environmental impacts of events by removing or reducing them, and capitalizing on more positive impacts through improved planning and processes.

Among the stakeholders who have provided input to the development of the standard are members of the sustainability team for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The Head of Sustainability, David Stubbs, comments: "London 2012 is proud to have been the catalyst for ISO 20121. This is a piece of legacy with the potential to transform how events around the world consider their economic, environmental and social impacts."

The standard takes the management systems approach familiar to thousands of organizations worldwide through the success of standards such as ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management).

ISO 20121 has been created by the event industry for the event industry. More than 30 countries and liaison bodies participated in the work.

Fiona Pelham, Chair of the ISO team of experts who developed ISO 20121, comments: "The development process has been led by members of the event industry from around the world who have experience of event management and sustainability leadership initiatives. Among its key benefits are:

  • Best business practice
    It makes sense to take an organized, processed approach to managing economic, environmental and social impacts. In addition, what gets monitored and measured gets reduced, so there are likely to be lower overheads.

  • Reputational advantage
    Using a recognized international framework will enable leaders in sustainability to demonstrate their actions in a credible and transparent way."

ISO 20121:2012 was developed by ISO project committee, ISO/PC 250, Sustainability in event management. It is available from ISO member bodies (see the complete list with contact details). It may also be obtained directly from the ISO Central Secretariat, price CHF 146 through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing, Communication & Information department.

Sustainable events with ISO 20121
Sustainable events with ISO 20121

Sustainable events with ISO 20121

Overview of ISO 20121, a pratical tool for managing sustainable events.