What is ISO 20121 and Why is it Important ?

The recent prestigious tournaments, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has received ISO 20121 accreditation. The accreditation has set a higher benchmark for future international mega-events to implement sustainable practices. In fact, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is not the first international mega-event that is certified with ISO 20121. 

Many international organisations had pledged and practiced the standard continuously with improvement. For example, the 2012 London Olympics utilised the internationally recognised ISO 20121. The 2012 London Olympics’ planners collaborated with the British Standards Institution (BSI), which had created some guidelines on managing sustainable events  to verify the sustainability commitments they had made. Then, this standard was adopted by COP15, and it is now extensively used. Instead, the standard can be used at any scale and any organisations. It is not just appropriate for large events.

Moreover, the venue of the 2012 London Olympic, ExCeL London adopted ISO 20121 in 2011 to serve as the venue for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. Since making this first pledge, the venue has continuously evaluated its performance in terms of sustainability and adopted a number of efforts to enhance it. In addition to using 100% renewable energy and green gas and switching to LED lighting and displays throughout the venue in 2020, 71% of the venue’s waste was recycled in 2021. So, why are the mega-events implementing the standard and what is ISO 20121?

The London 2012 Summer Olympics, London Stadium

Source: pixabay

What is ISO 20121?

ISO 20121 is the international standard that lays out standards for creating and putting into place an efficient management system to provide a sustainable event. Organisations must comprehend and handle sustainable development concerns in accordance with this criteria. It certifies the management system of the companies that organise the event, not the event itself. The standard was latest reviewed in 2012 and it is updated to ISO 20121:2012. 

Regardless of the size or nature of the event—whether it’s a concert with 50 attendees or the FIFA World Cup with millions of spectators—ISO 20121 is appropriate. It offers advice on supply chain management, stakeholder involvement, and operational planning and controlling. ISO 20121 will benefit the stakeholders such as the event organisers, event owners, the supply chain, attendees of the events, the communities and also the environment.

Why is ISO 20121 important?

Sustainability has emerged as a driving force in the reputations of brands and organisations, as well as in business profit. However, many organisations believe that planning for event sustainability only pertains to businesses that handle event planning and preparation. Thus, they tend to avoid sustainability challenges when planning and staging an event. In this case, the organisations will lose their competitive advantage because they fail to meet market expectations and miss out on opportunities to improve their event management system. It is where ISO 20121 comes in to help you to create event sustainability management systems.

ISO 20121 brings authenticity to events by encouraging innovative ideas

The ISO 20121 standard and the accreditation procedure frequently show businesses where they might innovate. The innovations give organisations and events more authenticity, as they require organisers or venues to support their sustainable objectives. More and more venues and vendors are realising the importance of having a strong management system to support any marketing messages. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is a prime example of an upscale event location that lives up to its reputation.

This venue has established the Sands Eco 360 Meetings Program in addition to receiving a sizeable number of sustainability-related accolades and certifications. The programme enables meeting planners to establish their own objectives for everything from food and drink to sustainable sourcing. A post-event impact statement and the option to host a zero waste event are both available to planners at The Marina Bay Sands.

Other than setting up a program like Sans Eco 360 Meetings Program, you should not be afraid to ask suppliers to make operational changes in order to fulfil the organisation’s sustainable objectives. You may, for instance, ask that contracts and floor plans be converted to digital format; if paper is still used, make sure it has a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

ISO 20121 improves brand reputations and bring sustainable financial profit

Implementing ISO 20121 and getting certified will provide a positive impression to clients both locally and internationally. It is because the framework provided by ISO 20121 helps you comprehend how your operations may have detrimental social, economic, and environmental impacts. Once these impacts have been identified and quantified, they can then be eliminated or diminished. The standard supports you in making improvements to their venue selection, transportation, recycling, and material reuse. You can encourage people to live healthy, sustainable lifestyles and to create jobs thanks to this standard. Potential customers will find it appealing, and it will draw people who are conscious of sustainability issues more and more.

ISO 20121 helps you to be more deliberate and coordinate in the event planning and management process. The standard instills a sustainability mindset; by employing this mindset, you will minimise waste, conserve energy, and streamline the supply chain and value chain. You will achieve long term financial gain from more effective resource management and simpler access to credit lines and sponsors. 

For an events company to become more sustainable in terms of the environment, society, and the economy, ISO 20121 is an excellent first step. Meanwhile, we need businesses to go beyond ISO 20121 and make more committed pledges to cut carbon emissions to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Organisations in the events sector should seek advice on how to kickstart and make ambitious commitments for sustainability. 

BBC assists event organisers and organisations in making achievable steps to get ISO 20121 certified. We help you to measure, manage and reduce your carbon footprint. We’ll go through what information to gather and how to calculate your carbon emissions.

Book a free call now to learn more about how BBC could help you with ISO 20121 certification.


  1. Stephenson, P. (2022, April 5). What is ISO 20121 and how can you deliver more impact through it? Reset Connect. https://www.reset-connect.com/sustainable-events-articles/what-is-iso-20121-and-how-can-you-deliver-more-impact-through-it
  2. ExCeL London Certified Carbon Neutral on pathway to net zero. ExCeL London. (n.d.). https://www.excel.london/visitor/news/excel-london-certified-carbon-neutral-on-pathway-to-net-zero

  3. Sustainable meeting initiatives: Singapore events & exhibitions: Marina Bay Sands. Sustainable Meeting Initiatives | Singapore Events & Exhibitions | Marina Bay Sands. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.marinabaysands.com/expo-events-and-convention-centre/green-meeting-initiatives.html


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