ISO2012-1: the Sustainable Event Management Standard

ISO2012-1: the Sustainable Event Management Standard

ISO2012-1 is an international standard designed to improve the social, economic and environmental sustainability of events, and the events sector.

What is ISO2012-1?

ISO2012-1 is an international voluntary management standard, which aims to ensure and improve all aspects of sustainability around the design and production of events.

Any event – from a street party to a sporting tournament – will have an impact on the environment, on the surrounding community and on the local (or national) economy. A special event requires a quantity of resources (like food, water, emergency provision) and community involvement, and often is a source of additional carbon emissions and other wastage. Considering the potential for both positive and negative impacts of an event at the beginning of the planning process, and throughout the delivery of the project, is essential for ensuring that the event is produced in the most sustainable way.

Some people may be familiar with other ISO standards – particularly ISO9001 (quality management) and ISO14001 (environmental management) – with over a million organisations worldwide using the former, and the latter being very widely adopted. Like ISO9001 and ISO14001, the ISO2012-1 management standard focusses on the production of a product (or event) rather than being specific to a product itself, with an emphasis on continual improvement across all the operations of an organisation.

Why was it developed?

The standard was initially developed by an international panel for the London 2012 Olympic Games, in order to standardise a management system approach to sustainability.

Two years later, Glasgow 2014 was the first Commonwealth Games to be certified as conforming to ISO2012-1. This video explains their motivations and actions taken:

Why is it relevant to the Arts?

Although ISO2012-1 has initially been adopted and certified by sporting mega-events, we believe that other forms of cultural events could also benefit significantly from a sustainable event management system:

  • Every theatre performance, exhibition, concert or festival is an event, and factoring sustainability into procedural planning and delivery is a great way to embed sustainability at the heart of arts organisations.
  • Better planning leads to more thoughtful, more sustainable events! The standard encourages more prior planning at the primary design stage which generally makes events better organised; considering sustainability dimensions like the local community, sustainable suppliers and environmental risks often leads to better overall event outcomes; increased efficiency in design can lead to financial savings; and a focus on continual reflection and improvement can safeguard the legacy of the event.
  • Closer relationships with suppliers and senior management improve the knowledge, awareness and engagement of the whole organisation – not just on sustainability concerns, but across the entire event planning process.
  • Establishing and using a sustainable management system improves consistency in an organisation, which is particularly useful in the case of staff turnover.

What are we doing?

At Creative Carbon Scotland, we think ISO2012-1 could have huge potential for those arts organisations trying to improve how they work. We’ve designed our policies, procedures, common documents, records and templates to be ISO2012-1 compliant, considering social, economic and environmental sustainability throughout.

We now consider ourselves to be working internally at ISO2012-1 standard, and plan all our events (such as our monthly Green Teases, and our Green Arts Conference) to be as sustainable as possible. You can see an example of one of our planning procedures here: PR06 Event Planning Procedure

We’re also supporting four of the Edinburgh Festivals, who are considering how ISO2012-1 may be relevant to their various individual organisations – as some of the largest arts festivals in the world!

Where can you find more information?

Although still a less established standard than other ISOs, there are some good case studies and examples of ISO2012-1 in practice in organisations internationally:

  • The British Standards Institute holds some case studies showing the different types of organisations certified as working to the standard (although each has a sports connection)
  • “Sustainable Event Management” by Meegan Jones gives a good overview of all the different aspects to consider when growing the sustainability of (particularly outdoor) events.

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About Creative Carbon Scotland

We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.


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0131 529 7909
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Supported by

Edinburgh Festival City Edinburgh Festival City

A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

Edinburgh Festival City Federation of Scottish Theatre Scottish Contemporary Art Network