ISO 20121

Sustainable event management

Sustainability in the event industry has developed into a real competitive factor: The discussion about sustainable development and corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become indispensable in the event sector and in so-called "live communication", and the demands of organisers and consumers in this respect have risen.

The best way to do this is to systematically track sustainable development with the help of a management system. If the essential elements from the areas of quality, environment, energy and occupational health and safety are included here, efficiency is combined with cost reduction and compliance - and the organiser also scores with an image boost.

For which events is sustainable event management relevant?

Each event is, in itself, a multiplier for messages, i.e. also for the increasingly important aspects of sustainable development. Regardless of whether sustainability is addressed directly or not - if the event itself is sustainable in its execution, much has already been gained through

  • the large number of daily events taking place worldwide with corresponding numbers of participants
  • the strong network character between organisers and participants and among the suppliers of the many interface industries (e.g. event technology, catering, mobility, hospitality)
  • the exemplary character: the event itself is its largest communicative platform

This creates a fruitful interaction between sustainable development and event management.

The ISO 20121

For ISO 20121 "Event sustainability management systems - Requirements with guidance for use", the type and size of the event play only a subordinate role: Whether sports competitions or trade fairs on an international scale, music festivals or concerts, conferences, exhibitions, meetings or other formats - all can be certified according to ISO 20121.
The event itself, the organiser and its corporate environment as well as the key stakeholders of the event are examined. In addition to the venue, the entire value chain will be targeted, including suppliers, customers and communication.

Why ISO 20121

A special feature of ISO 20121 is that it encompasses all three pillars of sustainability: environmental protection, social impacts and economic components. This facilitates integration into an existing management system. If, for example, a quality, environmental or occupational safety system is already maintained, existing structures can be extended to include the event standard.

The holistic approach of sustainability management for the event industry offers many advantages and opportunities:

  • Sustainability targets are set and communicated
  • Processes are systematized
  • Resources are used more efficiently and thus costs are reduced
  • a systematic, adaptable communication structure is established
  • Continuous further development and optimisation within the framework of the organisation's management system is promoted.
  • Sustainability efforts are objectively recorded, reviewed and compared

Field of action

Description and comments


Refers to the environment of the site, buildings, services provided, including marketing, communication, etc.


The impact of activities on the community, including entry, operation and exit

Consumer behaviour

Activities involving a significant risk of non-compliance

  • the needs of consumers/participants in terms of security, information, choice, accessibility and usability (concept of universal design)
  • fair conditions, the availability of effective compensation for consumers, and
  • Training on the impact of consumer choice

This may include aspects relating to the health and safety risks of minors, including protection against alcohol and other drugs


Energy    Consideration of energy efficiency and sustainable energy supply

Food and drinks

Catering services are available and offer choice and balance, are safe and hygienic

Health & Safety
in the workplace

Activities with significant risk to the health and safety of all types of workers

Personnel development and on-the-job training

Labour force by type of employment, contract and area and skill handling and support programmes, continued employability of labour force

Market appearance

Practices regarding the engagement of regionally based service providers and regional recruitment


Emissions related to greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, poisons (e.g. NO, SO and particulate matter), wastewater discharge and spillage

Procurement of products/services

Sustainability criteria in the activities of searching and procuring according to this listing

Transport and Logistics

Effects of transporting people (disabled access to transport) and goods


  • Spatiality
  • Animal welfare
  • Anti-competitive behaviour
  • Bribery, corruption
  • Communication
  • State of occupational and social protection
  • Discrimination and vulnerable groups
  • Economic output
  • Choice of materials
  • Illegal drugs and anti-doping
  • Indirect economic effects
  • Biodiversity and environmental protection
  • Security practices
  • Water and sanitation
  • Waste
  • Noise