ISO 20121 – Sustainable events

Any type of event, from the smallest local exhibition to fairs of an international standing, has a direct influence on the environment; it is therefore increasingly requested that the event be conceived of, planned, and conducted in such a way as to reduce to a minimum the environmental, social, and economic impacts: consumption of water and electric energy, production of scraps, the effects on biodiversity, organisation and logistics management, impact on the territory and use of personnel and suppliers.

Standard UNI EN ISO 20121:2012 “Event sustainability management systems – Requirements with guidance for use” is recognised as a standard for the Certification of Event sustainability management systems; it also incorporates some elements characteristic of ISO 26000 Guidelines. Based on the “Plan-Do-Check-Act” (PDCA) methodology, it provides a precise framework for the integration of sustainable management practises, so as to reduce the impact linked to the economic, environmental, and social aspects:

  • Environmental Criteria: reduction of the polluting emissions and protection of the existing environment (release of non-biodegradable wastes and polluting substances from the soil; disposal of waters; transports and logistics; lights and sounds that may disturb or alter ecosystems)
  • Social Criteria: involvement of specific people to be targeted (including the needs and the participation of the disabled)
  • Economic Criteria: evaluation of the economic feasibility of the event, taking into consideration the costs generated, the type of short- and long-term investments, but also the positive impacts on the activities involved.


UNI EN ISO 20121:2012 certification can regard any type of event and requires a clear definition of the scope of certification; it must indicate if the management system is applied to the single event, a range of events of the same type, or to all the events managed by the organisation.

The sustainability of the event is then applied to each phase of the manifestation: preparation and set-up, organisation, and holding and closing of the event and disassembly operations.

The procedures of a sustainable events management system involve every type of business, public or private, that:

  • organises events
  • is part of the supply chain of the activities linked to the event
  • represents an event venue
  • and intends to ensure conformity with a policy of sustainable development.

All those who work on the event and participate it are involved and encouraged to contribute with their own behaviour to create a “Sustainable Event”; therefore, it should record the least environmental impact possible, a fundamental objective of UNI EN ISO 20121:2012 certification.


The application of the ISO 20121 standard makes it possible to reach numerous benefits for the Company and for the stakeholders:

  • it reduces risks and minimises economic, environmental, and social impact of the event
  • it makes it possible to highlight the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility issues and therefore contributes to improving the company image and to distinguish themselves from their competitors
  • it promotes innovative techniques and technologies for the efficient use of resources
  • it offers the possibility to apply the same best practises used in planning of the event also within the daily working activities of the business, drawing advantages also in economic terms
  • it helps to contain costs thanks to the reduction of wastes, lower energy consumptions, and the possibility to reuse the equipment


Companies that opt to start a procedure linked to the Certification of their own sustainable events management systems enter the market equipped with greater credibility, demonstrating that they meet the requirements of the ISO 20121 standard.

The certification procedure, once the scope has been defined, follows the phases of the ISO 17921:

  • verification of certification in two phases (Stage 1 and Stage 2);
  • verification of the conformity of the system to the reference standard and issuing of the certificate on which the scope of the certification itself is specified;
  • verification of surveillance to guarantee constant compliance with the requirements indicated (periodicity of the function of the scope of certification and/or the type of events);
  • renewal of the certification every three years.

ISO 20121 was designed in such a way as to be integrated with other Management Systems schemes, like ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001.


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