ISO 20121 sets a new standard

//ISO 20121 sets a new standard

ISO 20121 sets a new standard

We were never convinced by BS8901 and we remain to be convinced by IS20121 –  the management system standard that has been designed to help organisations in the events industry improve the sustainability of their event related activities, products and services.  One of this year’s panels at the Reeperbahn Festival Campus Conference is going to look both at event safety – and the new code for large outdoor events  from the Interior Ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia –  and sustainability looking at the new ISO,  with panellists including  (Jens Michow, bdv, DE), Daniel Schlatter, (HVS GMBH, DE) and Eloise Sochanik, Head of Sustainability at Positive Impact Events (UK) moderated by Allan McGowan.  In simple terms, ISO 20121 describes the building blocks of a management system that will help any event related organisation to:

  • Continue to be financially successful
  • Become more socially responsible
  • Reduce its environmental footprint


The standard was set up to create an international version of the BS8901 to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics. London 2012 was  heralded to be the “greenest games ever” although the Olympics themselves showed how simply setting up management systems is not a perfect system – as systems can be ignored or overridden. Olympic chiefs at LOCOG said they would deliver 20 per cent of electricity during the Games from new local renewable sources, but delivered very little. A wind turbine was scrapped and “not enough work was done to find renewable biofuels for running the site or to invest in solar”.  Even suggestions that that Thomas Heatherwick’s marvellous  Olympic cauldron burnt biogas during the Games were scrapped on grounds of cost and storage problems.  With BP, Dow Chemicals and McDonalds as sponsors, it was never going to be easy, but at least McDonalds worked onsite ot improve their food sourcing and clearly set out calorie counts in meals; Coca-cola, another sponsor, have even helped set up the Zero Waste Events initiative – and some of what LOCOG did was outstanding – good public transport links (although not so good for cycling), recycled steel used in constructing the Olympic Park and the venues, pretty good recycling from consumer waste on-site and a 97% diversion from landfill for the construction waste, some re-use of grey water and LOCOG nearly met a 50% carbon emissions reduction against a pre-set benchmark. Not bad, and the wild flower beds were superb – but overall, not that green! A shame really and a missed opportunity from the Games that were meant to “inspire”.

However, it may well be ISO 20121 is something that interests you. It applies to all types and sizes of organisation 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.  Organisations that successfully implement the standard will be able to seek independent recognition of their achievement through a process called ‘Certification’.
This is what the website says about the ISO 20121 Standard

1.     ISO 20121 is a “specification”
The standard specifies the management system elements that an organisation has to have in place. All the elements described in the standard must be in place prior to the organisation being able to claim compliance with the standard.
2.     ISO 20121 is not a checklist
The standard is not a checklist but is a more complex document that describes the elements of a management system that an organisation has to have in place.
3.     ISO 20121 is difficult to understand
Unfortunately, international standards such as ISO 20121 are written in a way that is often unintelligible to many people. Consequently, you may need help in interpreting the requirements. Our ISO 20121 Team has developed a Guide to ISO 20121 that provides a plain and simple step by step roadmap on how to meet the requirements of the standard.
4.     ISO 20121 is about the management system
The standard applies to the management system used by organisations in delivering their event related activities, products and services. It is the management system operated by the organisation that is compliant with ISO20121, not the event.  (Note: a management system is the set of interrelated or interacting elements that are used to establish policies and objectives, and the processes to achieve those objectives.)
5.     ISO 20121 may require the adoption of new practices

All organisations have a management system of some kind otherwise they would not be in business, it just might not be written down or thought of in the terms used within the standard. In our experience, most organisations are already doing up to 70% of what the standard requires. Hence achieving ISO 20121 may not require any radical change but is likely to require the adoption of new practices. 

6.     ISO 20121 does not set performance requirements
The standard does not specify which sustainability issues to manage or what performance levels to achieve. What the standard requires is that an organisation has in place a transparent process through which it systematically evaluates the issues relevant to its operations and sets its own objectives and targets for improvement.
The ISO website says “In a nutshell, sustainability is about how an organisation continues to run its activities in a commercially successful way whilst contributing towards a stronger and more just society and reducing its impact on the environment. To achieve ISO 20121, an organisation will need to demonstrate that it has considered within its management system all key financial, economic, social and environmental issues relevant to its operations; focusing solely on environmental issues will not be sufficient.”#
We continue to recommend our own GREENER FESTIVAL AWARD scheme which offers a comprehensive check list for events which covers not only management systems but also the practical applications of environmental policies and an independent audit before certification. we also support European festival organisation Yourope’s Green n Clean scheme for their festival members. Julies Bicycle also offer the IG (Industry Green): scheme for music, theatre and arts organisers and Julie’s Bicycle’s IG Tools are a unique suite of tools for festivals, venues, offices, tours and production managers to measure greenhouse gas emissions on an annual or per-activity basis. Film and TV production companies can use Albert, a carbon calculator that’s been designed especially for the TV industry. It benchmarks the carbon emissions on a particular TV production and over time help production companies to work in a more sustainable way and save money.
More on Green n Clean here
More on the Julies Bicycle IG tools here
Photos  Ben Challis  3rd August 2012 at the Olympic Park (c) 2012

By |2016-11-01T15:05:00+00:00September 18th, 2012|AGF Blog|