The International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s efforts to systematically and continually improve the sustainability performance across its corporate events has resulted in it receiving certification to the international standard ISO 20121:2012 for its corporate events.
ISO 20121:2012 is an international standard for sustainability management systems applied to events, pioneered by the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games London 2012. It assesses the way sustainability is integrated into key decisions at every step of event planning and staging.
The IOC’s corporate events, which were subject to the certification process, include those organised and financed by the organisation, such as the IOC Sessions, commission meetings, Olympic Day events, the International Athletes’ Forum and other conferences.
“We are very proud to have received the ISO 20121 certification,” says IOC Director for Corporate and Sustainable Development, Marie Sallois. “It recognises our efforts to manage the social, economic and environmental impact of our corporate events. We hope this recognition will inspire other organisations within the Olympic Movement, as we strive to make the sports world more sustainable.”
“Inspired by the efforts of London 2012 and in accordance with the IOC’s strategic roadmap, Olympic Agenda 2020+5, we embarked on a journey to evolve the full portfolio of our institutional and corporate events and become an example for the Olympic Movement and beyond,” said Panos Tzivanidis, Director of Corporate Events and Services.
The IOC’s ISO 20121 certification audit was conducted in November 2022 and is effective for three years, with annual validation audits planned and regular assessments. The current sustainability objectives for IOC corporate events, which reflect the priorities of the IOC’s sustainability strategy, include:
- Preventing waste and maximising reuse and recycling. For example, by avoiding single-use plastics, renting equipment locally as much as possible, designing menus that reduce food waste and producing biogas and compost from food waste.
- Incorporating environmental and social responsibility criteria when making purchases. For example, by prioritising local and certified food and eco-labelled products, selecting reusable and recyclable decoration and signage materials, and making sure gifts are durable and manufactured in decent working conditions.
- Reducing CO2 emissions by putting in place new formats of events that enable remote participation.
- Encouraging the use of public and group transport by participants
- Raising event participants’ awareness of the sustainability measures in place.
The ISO 20121 certification was pioneered by the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games London 2012, which were a catalyst for its development. It has since become one of the sustainability requirements for every Olympic Games, with Rio 2016, PyeongChang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 all having been certified. It is also increasingly used by major sports and other event organisers.
Paris 2024, which received the ISO 20121 certification in 2022, will be another milestone in the evolution of the system. ISO 20121 is currently under revision and will be updated according to today’s context – both to reflect the growing possibilities of the events industry to become more sustainable and the increasing expectations from the public. Paris 2024 will pioneer the application of the revised standard, and the IOC is also contributing to the dialogue led by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) on the evolution of the norm.
“By inspiring the development of ISO 20121, London 2012 provided an opportunity to change the way events are planned and managed,” said David Stubbs, former Head of Sustainability for London 2012. “Since then, the planning and staging of all Olympic Games editions have been aligned with the standard. It has also been widely used beyond the Games. I am delighted and proud that this important Olympic legacy is evolving further with Paris 2024 to address the accelerating global sustainability challenges, raising the bar for sustainable sport and other events worldwide.”
Sustainability is a key element of the IOC’s strategic roadmap, Olympic Agenda 2020+5. In line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the IOC has committed to reducing its direct and indirect emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. It will compensate more than the remaining emissions through its Olympic Forest project. From 2030, all Olympic Games will be contractually obliged to minimise their carbon emissions and compensate more than 100 per cent of their residual emissions. Paris 2024 will be the first Olympic Games aligned with the Paris Agreement, with emissions expected to halve compared to previous Olympic Games editions.