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The UK events industry accounts for 35% of the UK visitor economy and is estimated to be worth £42 billion, yet it is still incredibly wasteful, with 68% of waste going directly to landfill.

Haymarket Media Group is a global media data and information company, who offer a wide range of digital print, tech and live event services. Haymarket UK had been certified to ISO 14001 (Environmental Management) and ISO 50001 (Energy Management) for a few years prior to 2019, covering most aspects of their business from a sustainability point of view.

However, their live events still had many sustainability opportunities that were not being taken into consideration by their existing certifications. So, in early 2022 they embarked on their journey to gain ISO 20121 (Sustainable Event Management) certification. 

Today, Gary Charlton and Natalie Harris from Haymarket join Mel to discuss exactly why they added ISO 20121 to their portfolio, the challenges faced with Implementing the Standard, and the benefits gained from certification.

You’ll learn

  • Who are Haymarket?
  • What is ISO 20121 Sustainable Event Management?
  • Why did Haymarket choose to Implement ISO 20121?
  • What challenges did they face?
  • What are the benefits of ISO 20121?


In this episode, we talk about:

[00:50] An Introduction to Haymarket Media Group – A global media data and information company, with offices in the UK, US, Germany, India and Asia. They produce live events (including award ceremonies, conferences and exhibitions), digital print, education data and tech services.

[02:25] Gary Charlton is the Head of Procurement for the UK –  Part of his role includes supporting the Haymarket approach towards sustainability, to ensure their products and services are as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible.

[02:45] Natalie Harris is the Procurement Executive at Haymarket – A lot of her role revolves around live events in addition to purchasing our products and services. Additionally, she advises the wider team on buying legally, sustainably and ethically. Both Natalie and Gary form a team, and were the main driving force behind the creation of their Sustainable Event Management System.

[03:40] What is ISO 20121?: ISO 20121 was launched for, and named after, the 2012 Olympics, making it the worlds first sustainable Olympics!  The Standard provides a framework for managing events sustainably, that includes having the policies, procedures, registers and records to demonstrate that the events are being run in a sustainable manner. Being certified indicates that a company is not just paying lip service to sustainability, it’s actually practicing what they preach. If you’d like to learn more about ISO 20121, go back and listen to episode 38.

[05:30] What was the main driver behind Haymarket achieving ISO 20121?: Haymarket first contacted Blackmores about assisting with ISO 20121 Implementation in 2019. At the time, they were already certified to ISO 14001 and ISO 50001, so they understood the benefits that came with ISO certifications – including the framework to start making better decisions and accurately measure what you’re doing.

Their head of facilities had started the process of evaluating other areas they could improve with ISO Standards, particularly around sustainability. Live events are a large service offering for Haymarket, which has a significant environmental footprint, so a case was put forward for the benefits if reducing that impact with the help of ISO 20121. The team running their live events were very positive about the potential benefits presented, and the go ahead was given.

[07:20] Sustainability is central to how Haymarket wants to operate – Implementing ISO 20121 would ensure that there was more standardisation across their processes. This would introduce some uniformity that could apply to all types of events, which was very important to the Live event lead – Donna Murphy.

Natalie was in the right place at the right time, already in the position of working in collaboration with Haymarket’s Live events team on sustainable procurement, ensuring that due diligence was followed with suppliers and their accreditations. So, it was a no-brainer getting her on board with the ISO 20121 project!

[09:30] How long did it take to implement ISO 20121?:  Haymarket engaged in Blackmores services in February 2022 and were accredited by July 2023. In total, it took 18 months for the planning, creation and development ahead of the assessment.

They ensured the system was refined to ensure it worked efficiently, encouraging continual improvement and a harmonious approach for the whole business.

[11:15] Above and beyond: Haymarket received a lot of praise from their Assessor – highlighting their thoroughness, including the involvement of top management and many others within the organisation in the creation of the Management System. Also for ensuring that the system would be applicable for the 4 main types of events that Haymarket runs.

[12:00] ISO 20121 requires an audit to be conducted during a live event – So Haymarket had a lot to consider when selecting the event to be audited.  

[13:30] Haymarket’s key insights on Implementing ISO 20121: #1: The Gap Analysis was an integral part of the process – by highlighting the gaps you can clearly see where improvements can be made. While they may have been a bit crestfallen and daunted by the gaps presented, they came out if knowing they already had around 27% of a Sustainable Event Management system already in place – partly due to their existing certifications. 

This soon bumped up to 59% at the half-way checkpoint! This assured them that ISO 20121 was within reach, and simply required at bit of time and effort to achieve.

#2 Having leadership involvement and backing – They were quick to involve their live event lead, Donna Murphy, in key decision making and with the roll-out of the Management System. She was instrumental in ensuring the Standard was in place and being followed.

[18:45] What were some of the gap identified and how did Haymarket bridge them?  Required documentation – Many ISO standards have required documentation. A lot of times companies do have a lot of it place, but it’s simply just not formalised. Natalie highlights that this was the case with a Risk Register. It’s not a universal company need to have, but as part of the Procurement Team it’s simply a part of who they are and what they do.

For live events, they need to do the appropriate health and safety checks, but it wasn’t formalised in any way. Thankfully their facilities and environment specialist, who assisted with the existing ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 certifications, was on hand to help with the creation of risk procedures based on procedures from the existing Management System.

With this collaborative approach, using elements from the exiting Management System, they created 31 brand new documents consisting of Procedures, Registers, Log and Records that are continuously used, monitored and updated.

This new documentation, while a lot of work to create, ultimately helps Haymarket track, measure and set parameter’s for continuous Improvement. It ensured they have a really visual system, with a clear view of what needs to be done to run sustainable events. 

[23:00] What difference has Implementing ISO 20121 made?: There was a big amount of short-time work for a long term gain. It’s not simply a stack of useless documents sitting in a corner, it’s a living, breathing system that is injected into the business.

The Management system is of benefit to everyone, including those new to Haymarket’s team as it provides a structured and standardised approach to sustainable event delivery. It’s provided knowledge and helped to develop new skills that will stick with all those that interact with the Management system, whether they stay with Haymarket or move elsewhere.

Ultimately, it’s all about ensuring they are doing the right thing for the planet. By creating more sustainable events, they are reducing their impact as a whole.

[26:00] What is the main achievement from being certified to ISO 20121?: Morale and confidence that they can say they really do practice what they preach. They could hold a mirror up and say, right, we’ve created this system and we’re confident in it – with internal audits conducted by third-parities to confirm they’re on the right track with their intended goals.

Certification is not the end goal. You have annual Surveillance Audits to check-in, so the system must be a long-term feature in your business, and it must drive continual improvement.

[27:50] What top tip would Gary and Natalie give for ISO 20121 Implementation? Gary: Make sure you’re resolute in your reasoning for Implementing the standard and the implications of doing so. Also, enlist the help of someone with Implementation experience!

Natalie: Don’t underestimate the amount of work required. Select someone in-house to manage the project and when / if you can, use external resources such as a consultant to assist. They can also provide unbias, reflective feedback to ensure you’re on the right track.

[30:10] What’s a favorite quote? “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” – Robert Swan

If you’d like to learn more about Haymarket check out their website!

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Today Mel Blackmore is joined by David Ball, the CEO and founder of Brandfuel, a leading event management company. David’s here to tell us all about Brandfuel and its sustainability journey. It’s an inspirational and interesting story to hear about this journey and their experience of implementing ISO 20121, the sustainable event management standards.

First and foremost, let’s find out more about Brandfuel! 

Brandfuel is a creative events agency, and they specialise in creating experiences which can be anything from very different types of virtual events, broadcast programmes, exhibitions, conferences, demos, dinners, to award ceremonies. The key thing about Brandfuel as an organisation is that they work hard with clients over a long-term period to translate their business needs and objectives into measurable results for their business.

Brandfuel started with some incredible clients; David has been working with Google for the last 18 years before he even started the company. They have a phenomenally strong class of clients ranging from companies like Slack, Stripe, Snapchat, BlackRock, Barclays and Deloitte and of course, Google and YouTube.

Now let’s find out about David’s thoughts on sustainability in the events industry…

What you’ll learn:

  • Sustainability in the events industry
  • How did Brandfuel adapt to business during the pandemic?
  • How did Brandfuel manage the transformation of physical events to virtual events?
  • Benefits of ISO 20121

Sustainability in the events industry

David believes that transport travel accounts for the majority of the carbon emissions at Brandfuel. It’s almost an impossible scenario to imagine if you take the travel away in the events industry. But it has to be measured and mitigated. David is confident that there will be substantial changes following this year of very little travel. He was typically required to take an excess of 100 flights a year, and last year…he flew twice!

So, that’s the big elephant in the room in Brandfuel as 75% of the job is related to travel and transport in some way.

However, there are some simple things that can be done to create a change. But you need your clients on board with you to make this change happen. David is happy to say that they’re past what was an attitude within clients when they wanted to be seen as ‘doing the right thing’. But actually, if it cost more money, they wouldn’t take action. And now they are in a new realm where clients not only want to be seen doing the right thing, but they also actively want to be able to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability now and in the future, and they’re willing to pay for it. So, Brandfuel seems to be heading into a very exciting journey, where sustainability is on the client’s requirement list of what they want from an agency to deliver for them.

So now before we dive into ISO 20121, the sustainable event management standard, let’s find out how Brandfuel adapted during the pandemic. The pandemic was a major upheaval in the events industry, yet Brandfuel managed to achieve certification to ISO 20121. So, let’s understand how Brandfuel made it happen.

How did Brandfuel adapt to business during the pandemic?

David is accurate in saying it’s been a quite catastrophic year! But it’s also been an exciting year.

The adaptation was really quick. They decided, instantaneously that switch to working online. So, they had to learn about arranging virtual events, and to become a broadcast business they had to learn every facet of broadcast as quickly as possible. They were fortunate in being agile and they were very quick to practice.

David set up some vehicles to help Brandfuel achieve this. One of which was an internal brand called Fuel Studios, which was the overarching umbrella that allowed Brandfuel to play, train, learn and get as much experience in broadcast as possible within the bounds of the agency to then be able to use it for clients.

They did things like turn company meetings into broadcasts and events into shows, and they started segmentizing. So, for example, they would mimic in a short video someone sharing their home with them and practice the filming, the editing and other interesting things like using triggered audio and watermarking on mobile devices to add content into video via broadcasts. So, some really clever stuff!

They also arranged a ‘lockdown low-down’, which was getting everyone at home to video what they were up to during lockdown. The studio also learned to design three-dimensional virtual sets. They also learned about green screens, lighting, camera work, multi-camera work and camera tracking -they did everything! And it really proved so useful because within a few months, they were given an incredible opportunity with an existing client to organise the global planning summit with three and a half thousand attendees. It was super complicated, massive scale, and very quick, but it gave them a lot of confidence, and they never looked back.

This really is incredible, just talk about diversification and innovation!

So, moving onto 20121 then…let’s find out how Brandfuel diversified in terms of the actual events that they were running, to then switch to online events via investment.

How did Brandfuel manage the transformation of physical events to virtual events?

David reveals that this was quite tricky! First and foremost, they needed to find a suitable set of events to be mentioned. They needed a balance of some in-person and the actual event deliveries. This needed permission from clients, and it needed a lot more planning. So, the first one they were fortunate with was the annual event for VGC partners, the world’s largest electronic data brokerage. It’s their charity day on September 11th and it’s a recognition of all the staff that they lost in the Twin Towers tragedy. It’s a very emotional and important day for them and regularly they would raise between $10 to $12 million in a day.

They achieve this by having almost 100 celebrities appear on the trading floor in London, and trade with their clients over the phone. Now, to do that virtually was a challenge in itself, but David reveals that the client was willing to give it a go. Brandfuel had a big team that had to go on-site and fortunately, VGC had relocated from their building. So, Brandfuel was able to use this building to social distance and managed to bring celebrities in virtually to have video conversations with BDCs clients who were also virtual. This gave them access to talent that they never got physically. They had Kelly Osborne attend virtually, along with famous cricketers and golfers. So, it was very different, and it worked really well as they raised a phenomenal $10 million, with only 25 celebrities!

So, now that Brandfuel is certified to ISO 20121, let’s find out what David identifies as some of the benefits of this standard…

Benefits of ISO 20121

Well, David believes that the benefits are huge! He identifies the obvious benefit to be that they are now commercially classified as being an agency that can be trusted to work to the highest standards in sustainability This is helpful for them as David believes this is going to be one of the biggest buying signals and cues that clients will show in the future. The other key thing for Brandfuel now is management systems; their internal management systems have improved so much. That gives them an incredibly strong platform to build on and to keep building.

David believes that ISO certification comes down to focus and to allocate the right amount of resources internally. It is a time commitment and resource commitment, but when you manage this and really stand behind as a business, it runs incredibly smoothly.

Brandfuel has successfully brought ISO standards into its DNA because it’s part of the fuelling station, which in effect is their ‘go-to’ place within the business; it’s their intranet. The fuelling station as their intranet has been incredibly important currently as they’re all working from home. So, they made sure that all those management systems were fully integrated into new processes, and this meant being fully integrated into their communication processes. Their fuelling station was the centre of that, so they can really use it as a resource.

Brandfuel are also currently in the process of implementing ISO 27001 Blackmores. The ISO 27001 progress is going really well, and straight after that they’re going to implement the Health & Safety, ISO 45001 standard. This will open new sectors and new opportunities for Branfuel commercially.

That’s it from David! We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know his journey and inspirational stories.

To find out more about Brandfuel, visit their Website!

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As a leader in its field, Blackmores have worked in collaboration with the Brewery over the last 5 years, firstly with implementing ISO 9001 and ISO 20121 and then providing on-going support through our ISO support Plan.  So I’m delighted that Arantza (Quality Assurance Director for The Brewery) has joined us today to share with our ISO Show listeners her experience and ISO Journey, along with hints and tips for making events sustainable.

Here are a few highlights:

  1. I know that you have been with The Brewery for many years, please could you share with me your journey to implementing ISO 20121 and ISO 9001?

ISO 9001 provided the structure

Socially responsible organisation, one of the first organisations in the UK to be certified to ISO 20121.

Profit, people and planet, the three pillars go hand in hand at the Brewery

  • Why choose to be certified to ISO 20121?

Help to be more sustainable, also looked at ISO 14001 the Environmental Standard.  The social and economic was important, ISO 20121 gave a more holistic.  With ISO 9001 it helped to provide a structure to bring together all the elements that were in place.

  • What are the main benefits?

Two main benefits that we hadn’t considered, not as a company we have more awareness of how our operations have an impact not only for clients, but stakeholders and are socially responsbible i.e. neighbours.  We have to consider how everything that we do, how to negate any negative affects.  Have to be sustainable not just to reduce plastic,

Benefit – commitment from staff, agency staff.  The issue can be a lack of commitment due to the short-term period of employment which is based around events.  Any  issues have to be investigate, find the route cause,

Interestingly, Arantza has used the Corrective and Preventive action clauses, to improve communications to prevent any issues from happening again.  Now, any issues are raised straight away and management are informed, therefore there is greater trust and empowerment, as issues are not only being raised be staff, but staff are saying why and what can be done to correct the issues. This has helped to develop a culture of continual improvement.

  • What would you say you’ve learnt from the experience of implementing ISO 20121?

The standard tells you what to do not how to do it.

Engage the team, support and explain to staff the reason why.

  • What top tip would you give to someone implementing an ISO Standard?

Consider how we affect the social network of the company to be sustainable. 

If you’d like to learn more about what The Brewery does – visit their website!

If you need assistance with ISO 20121 – we’d be happy to help.

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The Events industry in the UK is worth £39.1 billion – accounting for 30% of the UK visitor economy. This includes music events, sporting events, exhibitions and various festivals and cultural events.

It’s awesome that this is so great for the economy, and for people getting together to have a great time, however, the sad fact is that the lack of sustainability in events these events is having a devastating impact on our planet.

According to the stats from WRAP – Many events only recycle around 15% of waste from events – the rest goes to landfill

The Music Industry alone created 23,500 Tonnes of waste a year, and only 32% of that is recycled

Recognising that something needed to be done about this wasteful industry a standard for sustainability events was created by the events industry for the events industry known as ISO 20121.

Just to give you a bit of background, ISO 20121 is applicable to any size organization that either runs or hosts events, and wishes to improve the sustainability of their events.  The standard provides a framework to establish, an event sustainability management system, which not only helps to reduce the negative impacts of events, but also capitalizes on the more positive impacts through improved planning and processes.

So this standard started out as a British standard – BS 8901 in 2009. This was when we first got involved with implementing the standard for events companies and venues that hosted events.  But it wasn’t until the Olympic Games 2012 in London, that the standard really made its mark.

I think this really helped to push the topic of sustainability to the top of events management companies agenda’S.

I understand that one of the key aims of the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012, was to leave behind a positive legacy in terms of economic, environmental and social benefits, with minimum material waste, energy consumption, or strain on local communities.

One of the many questions we get asked is about the scope of certification

So let me just talk you through the options here:-

Venue – i.e. Wembley Stadium

Organiser – Events Management company or just a company that organises or hosts a lot of events.

Want to learn more about ISO 20121? Take a look at our Steps to Success.

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The UK events industry accounts for 30% of the UK visitor economy generating £39.1 billion.  Yet, it is still incredibly wasteful, with only 15% of waste going to landfill.  Our ISO Show this week features Lucille Ryan, Sustainability Manager from Informa who provides an insight into how Informa reduces waste and demonstrates a commitment to sustainability to buck the wasteful trend in the industry.

As the world’s leading exhibitions organiser, with over 4,400 employees delivering over 550 international events and brands in more than 40 countries.  Informa, are raising the bar for sustainable events globally.

In the first quarter of 2019, Informa Markets took home an impressive amount of industry honours.  In total, the global exhibitions leader received 45 distinctions from a variety of industry networks.   

In our podcast this week we delve right into the Sustainable events standard ISO 20121.

To give you a bit of background, ISO 20121 was created by the events industry for the events industry. Applicable to any size organization that either runs or hosts events, and wishes to improve the sustainability of their events.  The standard provides a framework to establish, an event sustainability management system, which not only helps to reduce the negative impacts of events, but also capitalizing on the more positive impacts through improved planning and processes.

This standard started out as a British standard – BS 8901 in 2009.  Which was when Blackmores first got involved with implementing the standard for events companies and venues that hosted events such as Wembley Stadium.  But it wasn’t until the Olympic Games 2012 in London, that the standard really made its mark.  One of the key aims of the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012, was to leave behind a positive legacy in terms of economic, environmental and social benefits, with minimum material waste, energy consumption, or strain on local communities.

I hope you can join Lucille and I discuss Informa’s sustainability initiatives and how this is making a positive impact on the events industry.

If you would like to find out more about Informa, head on over to their website:

Their latest Sustainability report can be found HERE

Need assistance with ISO 20121? We’d be happy to help, simply Contact Us.

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