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ISO 20121:2012, the Standard for Sustainable events management, was originally created and launched in coordination with the London 2012 olympics. 12 years on, it seems only fitting that its next revision would applied to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

10 Years on from it’s original release, the Standard has received a substantial update to not only bring it in-line with other ISO Standards, but to also address additional elements within event management, such as human rights and legacy.

Today Steph Churchman will explain the changes to ISO 20121:2024, what certified companies must do to transition and the consequences of not doing so before the deadline.

You’ll learn

  • What is ISO 20121?
  • What are the changes to ISO 20121:2024?
  • What steps should certified companies take to complete their transition?
  • What should you be updating?
  • What are the consequences for not completing your transition ahead of the deadline?


In this episode, we talk about:

[00:30] Join the isologyhub – To get access to a suite of ISO related tools, training and templates. Simply head on over to to either sign-up or book a demo.

[02:05] Episode summary: Steph will be discussing the changes to the Sustainable Event Management Standard, ISO 20121:2024, in addition to outlining what you should be updating ahead of your transition to the latest version of the Standard.

[02:30] What is ISO 20121? – . The Standard for Sustainable events management was originally created and launched in coordination with the London 2012 olympics.

When it came to planning the 2012 Olympic Games, they took a step back and considered the impact of required development and construction would have on biodiversity, as well as how they could reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions and general waste in the preparation and running of the event.

12 years on, it seems only fitting that it’s next revision would applied to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

ISO 20121 specifies the requirements for an Event Sustainability Management System to improve the sustainability of events. The standard applies to all types and sizes of organisations involved in the events industry – from caterers, lighting and sound engineers, security companies, stage builders and venues to independent event organisers and corporate and public sector event teams.

[04:45] A high-level overview of the changes to ISO 20121:2024 – One of the biggest and most welcomed changes is the fact that the Standard is now aligned with the familiar High Level Structure that many other ISO’s follow. This means it will be easier to integrate with other Standards like ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

Next, there is a bigger focus on climate change, legacy and human rights. These elements weren’t necessarily missing from the previous version, but they weren’t a key focus either.

 [05:10] Climate Change in ISO 20121:2024 – , ISO 20121:2024 now explicitly requires considering climate change and its impact on your event and stakeholders. So, this might involve carbon emission reduction strategies and adapting to potential climate-related disruptions. Biodiveristy may also fall under this, especially if your events require construction, or take place in an outside venue such as a park or field.

A quick reminder that 31 common ISO Standards also received a Climate Change Amendment, so if you haven’t addressed that yet, check out our podcast episode and workshop recording to learn about what you need to do.

What does this focus on climate change mean for certified companies?:

  • It provides an opportunity for event professionals and event organisers to demonstrate leadership in taking action around climate change
  • Certified organisations are required to ensure that any carbon offsetting completed via carbon credits are credible
  • ISO 20121:2024 Standard facilitates the process of taking credible action and aligns ISO 20121 with big changes relating to climate change

[06:55] Human Rights in ISO 20121:2024  – The new version also expands beyond environmental concerns to encompass human and child rights, social impact (including mental health and diversity), and digital responsibility. Your management system will need to address these aspects throughout the event lifecycle.

What does the increased focus on human rights in ISO 20121 mean for certified organisations?:

  • Certified organisations will need to demonstrate and adhere to UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • The revised standard also now references social impact in its definitions – primarily in the definition for Sustainable Development and Stewardship.
  • A new Annex has been added – Annex D: Guidance on Human and Child Rights.
  • Added guidance states that event organisers should consult with Human and Child Rights experts and conduct a Human Rights Assessment to identify potential risks to the people as a result of an event and its surrounding activities.
  • You should publish a Human Rights Policy to ensure that Human Rights consideration is embedded in the whole lifecycle of an event.

[08:40] Legacy in ISO 20121:2024 – An added focus on Legacy provides an opportunity to event organisers to focus, not only on the few days of event delivery, but also supports in creating enduring results for the hosting community.

For example, creating an economic impact for the local population, by providing the opportunity to acquire new skills, to share best practices on how to do events in a more sustainable way or by improving a public place close to the event.

[09:20] Join the isologyhub and get access to limitless ISO resources  – From as little as £99 a month, you can have unlimited access to hundreds of online training courses and achieve certification for completion of courses along the way, which will take you from learner to practitioner to leader in no time. Simply head on over to the isologyhub to sign-up or book a demo.

[11:30] A strengthening of Stakeholder Engagement – The Standard now emphasizes demonstrating sustainability throughout your supply chain. This might involve you requesting proof of sustainability practices from vendors and incorporating ethical sourcing practices.

The definition of stakeholders has also now been expanded to include partners and sponsors. So, you’ll need to consider how their sustainability practices align with your event’s goals.

The policy clause now requires reporting on your sustainability achievements and lessons learned. Building a system for tracking and reporting these aspects will be crucial, and will likely involve a lot more communication between your stakeholders to gather any necessary data for reporting purposes.

[12:35] alignment and flexibility – The updated standard aligns with other management system standards thanks to the high level structure update, making integration easier for organizations with existing systems.

The revised standard also caters to events of all sizes and complexities, allowing for adaptation to your specific needs.

There’s now alignment with Global Frameworks, like the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and the Paris Agreement. If you’d like to learn more about the SDG’s, check out a few previous podcast episodes: 106, 107 & 108.

[13:30] Transition Deadline – What happens if you miss it? –  Anyone certified to the 2012 version of the Standard will have until the 31st March 2027 to transition to the 2024 version.

If you don’t, you’ll risk losing your certification, and you’ll have to go through the whole Stage 1 and 2 Assessment again to get that certificate back, which is obviously quite costly.

[14:15] What do you need to do to transition? – Here’s a very high-level of the steps you should take:

  • Review and conduct a Gap Analysis: This is to compare your existing system against the new standard’s requirements to identify areas needing improvement.
  • Update your Policies and Procedures: specifically your event sustainability policy to reflect the broader range of sustainability issues and incorporate reporting requirements.
  • Develop a plan to engage with a wider range of stakeholders, including sponsors and partners, on sustainability initiatives.
  • Review your Supply Chain Management: This will involve establishing or updating procedures for assessing and integrating sustainability practices throughout your vendor network.
  • Training and Awareness: Any and all changes should be communicated. Educate your team on the new standard’s requirements and integrate them into event planning and execution processes.
  • Carry out Internal Audits: Once you’ve implemented the changes, audit against the new Standard and ensure you’re compliant. Then you’ll need to prepare for your Certification Body Transition visit.

[15:30] What Specific actions can you take to update your ISO 20121 Management System?

Here are some suggested actions to address Human Rights and Children’s Rights:

  • Update your event sustainability policy to explicitly state your commitment to respecting human rights and children’s rights throughout the event lifecycle.
  • Update your Risk Assessments as you’re going to need to identify potential human rights risks associated with your event, such as discrimination in hiring or unfair labour practices within the supply chain.
  • Review your Supplier Management as you’ll need to ensure your suppliers uphold human rights standards.
  • Engage with relevant stakeholders like human rights organizations or local communities to understand potential human rights concerns and incorporate their feedback into your planning.

A few other actions you could do include:

  • Partnering with organizations promoting fair labor practices and human rights.
  • Including human rights clauses in contracts with suppliers and partners.
  • Conduct training for staff on identifying and mitigating human rights risks.
  • Implementing a grievance process for reporting potential human rights violations.

[17:00] What further actions can you take to address Legacy?:

  • Integrate legacy planning into the early stages of event development. Consider aspects like infrastructure, also workforce development (for example training opportunities for local communities), and universal accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Develop metrics to measure the positive legacy of your event. This could involve tracking the number of jobs created, increased accessibility measures implemented, or infrastructure donated to the community.
  • Consider the potential to partner with local organizations to ensure the event’s legacy benefits the community in the long term. This might involve collaborating on infrastructure projects or workforce development initiatives.
  • You should also Conduct a post-event impact assessment to evaluate the event’s legacy.

[18:00] Reporting on the social, economic and environmental impacts – The first step should be to develop a Reporting Framework: This framework should consider relevant metrics for social (e.g., job creation, diversity), economic (e.g., local business involvement), and environmental (e.g., carbon footprint, waste generation) impacts.

Next, you need to Implement a system for collecting and analyzing data related to your event’s social, economic, and environmental performance.

And lastly, choose appropriate communication channels for your sustainability report, such as your website, annual reports, or dedicated sustainability reports.

You could look at specific reporting software or get help from a third-party such as Blackmores.  

We’d recommend purchasing a copy of the Standard so you can review the specific changes yourself, in addition to reviewing the updated guidance provided in the Annexes.

If you’d like to book a demo for the isologyhub, simply contact us and we’d be happy to give you a tour.

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