As if implementing ISO 20121 wasn't detailed enough, now you have go and get audited, and before that, you have to do your own internal audit … more paperwork ahead!

Implementing ISO 20121 is a great way to ensure you have everything in place to facilitate great sustainability management of your events.

Events implementing ISO 20121 often use it as a pulpit from which to spruik their sustainability-ability. ISO 20121 implementation offers a good opportunity to communicate to event attendees, sponsors, and the local community, that you have the capability to responsibly produce your events.  Read many news articles by events and organisations on the ISO 20121 media registry here.

With these public claims may also come stakeholder scrutiny. Having external verification is essential to show your stakeholders that you walk the talk, and are not just out blowing hot air in a whoosh of greenwash.

If you’re implementing ISO 20121 and hanging your hat on that, consider how you will ‘prove’ yourself, if your conformity claims are questioned.

Undergoing an Audit

Undergoing an audit by an external and non-conflicted party, and your conformity verified, is the end game … apart of course from having a fully functioning management system and achieving great performance improvements.

First Party (Internal) Audit

If you plan to be externally assessed and certified, then your journey will include undertaking an internal audit first. In fact the standard itself requires it – have a read of Clause 9.3 Internal Audit. This can then lead to a First Party Audit conformity claim.

Undertaking this internal audit is a gap analysis process. Someone from within your organisation will review the event sustainability management system and cross check you have all the requirements covered, before undergoing the external audit.

Once this is done, you could then go on to make authentic self-verified First Party conformity claims if you like.

Conformity Ready

Undertaking the internal audit also gets you 'conformity ready' for an external audit. You will have checked you have all your ducks in a row and are much less likely to have 'non-conformities' identified by the Auditor, when you undergo the external audit. This will definitely save you some time and possibly money, as you to-and-fro with the Auditor to address any missing components.

External audits can be conducted as a ‘second party’ audit or a ‘third party’ audit.

  • Second Party: An external party (such as an individual or organization in the supply chain, consultant or industry association) assesses your conformity with requirements of the standard.
  • Third Party: Accredited Certifying Bodies conduct third party conformity assessment audits and award ‘ISO 20121 Certification’.


For a self-assessment claim to be credible, you should ensure that efforts are supported by the existence of a robust, internally transparent, and well-documented system. The SEMS Tool is a great backbone on which to build your system.

How to Do an Internal Audit

To undergo an external audit, you need to identify each and every requirement of the standard. A good hint to find our what is in fact a ‘requirement’ is to look for the word ‘shall’. If a clause has that word in there, then it’s a must take.

Particularly important is to have things documented, and that your documents have document control.

Apart from the paperwork side of things, you need to look for evidence that the plans, policies, procedures and processes are actually being understood and implemented.

To undergo an internal audit, you need to have someone on your team that understands event sustainability issues, understands ISO 20121, and preferably isn’t completely in charge of the actual creation of the management system. Next, they’ll need to spend time working out what the requirements are and develop various paperwork templates to take them through the internal audit process.

That’s a big ask, as many organisations and teams often won’t have such a person to devise and implement the management system, let alone a spare body to undertake the audit!

Enter the Wizard

Not to downplay the slightly boring and potential paperwork heavy aspect of an audit - but things just got a whole lot easier, as GreenShoot Pacific has developed an online wizard to track. It tracks through the requirements and to ensures you have everything in order. The wizard includes, for each clause and requirement:

  • Details the clause's requirement/s
  • Auditor guidance
  • Auditor instructions
  • A conformity assessment checklist
  • A section to record Auditor observations and recommendations
  • A section to detail the evidence collected/viewed/observed
  • Conformity status checklist (partial, conforms, does not conform)
  • A section Corrective action required to achieve conformity

A summary of the above, for each section of the standard, once audited, is emailed to the user for their records.

The Internal Audit tool access is US$50.