Key Point 4: Support

Key message

Having the right support is vital for implementing sustainability. 

What does support mean?

It means having the right resources, skills, training and awareness to implement sustainability effectively. 

Watch a video from Fiona Pelham, ISO 20121 Chair, who explains in more detail what support means.

Note: you can also read a transcript of her video below. 

So we are now at the part of ISO 20121 which is called support. There are five key sections to the support part: Resources, Competence, Awareness, Communication and Documented information. This part is really about making sure that you are given the right supporting tools and staff and budgets to make sure you can achieve what you want to with your sustainability goals.

So, the first section is resources and this is really asking whether you have the right resources in terms of staffing, staffing competency, training, infrastructure, technology and finance. Obviously, it is unrealistic to think that in the first few years of working with sustainability plans you will have limitless resources. Your resources will always be on a budget, so this is about making sure that you have identified the right resources which you need to achieve the objectives that you have identified.

Secondly we have competence. Competence is all about making sure that the people who are leading your sustainability implementation have the right skills. Do they have a background in this? Have they received education or training in sustainability? If they haven’t, it’s about identifying how they will acquire the right education or training and evaluating how that process is going. So, for example if they have received training what have been the results after the training? And what training do they need in the future?

Thirdly there is awareness. Awareness is about making sure that everybody who is in the organisation knows what will happen if they don’t work in the way that they are supposed to. For example, if everybody ignores the sustainability objectives they won’t be met, so the awareness section asks that you make sure that all staff members are aware of this. It also asks that people are made aware of the policy; this does not have to just be your internal staff; this could also be your external stakeholders and interested parties, for example, your supply chain. The awareness section also asks that you make sure everyone knows how they can contribute to the success of sustainability. So maybe there is an objective that is relevant to everybody around your organisation and awareness is making sure they all know how they can help achieve this objective.

Fourthly is communication. So, do you have a communication plan of what you are going to say, when you are going to say it, who you are going to say it to and how? Obviously, this communication is about your sustainability objectives. You may find that it makes sense to align this communication with other existing communication, for example, the launch of new products or the launch of different events. Remember, within your communication (where appropriate) you can refer to things like your issues, your objectives and targets. Remember as well to think about the feedback you have received from your interested parties; what would they expect you to communicate and how.

Fifthly, documented information. This is all about making sure that you appropriately document and capture information to prove you are implementing ISO 20121. So think about what you need to document to meet the requirements of the standard. For example – policy – that is a key piece of documentation. What else do you need to make sure that your way of working is effective? Where appropriate, you may want to ask your suppliers to contribute to this documentation. With documented information it is very important to know how you are creating it and how you are updating it and also where you are storing it, how you are protecting it and how you are sharing it with people. Having a clear process in place for your documentation will make it much easier for you to be able to demonstrate that you are implementing ISO 20121 and to use the documents to help you achieve your sustainability objectives. 



To implement the management system, certain input will be required, such as financial support, training, technology or infrastructure. These are known as resources.


The skills and ability of an individual or group within the organization to perform the tasks required of them as part of the implementation of the management system. 


Employees, and anybody carrying out work under the control of the organization, should know about the sustainability policy, how they can contribute to a more effective implementation of sustainability, and what the negative impacts could be if they do not comply with the management system.


Information provided by the organization both internally to staff and externally to interested parties, This information can include the organization's sustainability policy, objectives, updates in relation to performance or feedback from interested parties.

Documented information

Information about, or relating to the management system should be captured in an appropriate format (this could be electronic in the form of documents, videos, photographs, recordings or emails, or hard copies such as paper documents). 


This presentation explains the areas relating to your organisation's context in more detail. You can read a summary of the presentation below


As we have already highlighted in earlier presentations, it’s important when implementing your management system to consider the resources that you might need in order to effectively achieve your objectives. Within ISO 20121, resources could be:

  • Money
  • Time
  • Staff
  • Infrastructure
  • Technology

There is often a perception that implementing sustainability initiatives is very expensive and time consuming. This is not necessarily the case, but you will need to set aside some time and budget to spend on sustainability. The good news is, within a few years, once you’ve started to change your ways of working, you are likely to see a reduction in the time and money that you need to spend, as you will have clear processes which are more efficient, and systems in place to allow you to easily implement sustainability.

If you don’t have a specific “sustainability” budget, then you could use budget from other relevant areas such as staff training. If you then measure the impact of your sustainability education or training and the cost and time savings that occur as a result of implementing sustainability, then this money can be set aside to provide a budget for future sustainability investments.

The resources don’t have to include expensive purchasing of equipment; in fact it is often better to focus on the small changes first – changing people’s habits first (such as switching off lights or power when not needed) – can save you money in the short term. You can then consider investing in initiatives once you have reduced your consumption or created efficiencies.


Competence is making sure that the people or groups who need to do a particular task in relation to sustainability and the management system are able to do so. This might mean that they need to understand ISO 20121, and so they have had training in the details of the framework; they could need to be able to use a particular piece of software, be familiar with a document, or know the right methodology to monitor and measure effectively.

You will need to assess the competence of your organisation, which sounds a bit like a test, but it is in fact just a case of identifying the needs for training, education and improvement. What do people need to do? What are they already able to do? What support will they need in order to acquire the skills that they need.


Not every staff member will need to know all of the content of ISO 20121. However, what they do need to know is that there is such a thing as ISO 20121 and that you are implementing it. They need to understand that it is a management system which formalises the ways of working around sustainability, and they need to be aware of the sustainability initiatives that are in place – particularly the ones which relate directly to their jobs.

Why is awareness relevant to everybody? Imagine you have a sales team who are slightly removed from the event operations team. The event team could be very familiar with ISO 20121 and the sustainability initiatives that are being implemented, and doing fantastic work which demonstrates great leadership. If the sales team is not aware of these activities and initiatives then they will be unable to sell the benefits of sustainability when talking about your event, product or venue.

Awareness is also important externally to your organisation. Your supply chain may need to be aware that you are implementing sustainability initiatives and will therefore have to meet certain criteria in relation to your sourcing policies, for example. Consider which of your interested parties needs to be made aware of your activities around ISO 20121, and what specifically they need to be made aware of. Not everyone needs to know everything, but everyone needs to know something


You can communicate internally and externally. What could internal communication look like? This could be communicating your vision, values and purpose so that everyone understands why you are going where you are going, communicating your sustainability policy so that people understand the background to your management system and your objectives, or communicating the progress you are making against these objectives. For example, a staff update on successes, but also on areas where you are not doing as well – this will give you an opportunity to address any problem areas and identify ways to get back on track.

You will need to communicate your sustainability policy externally too, for example via your website, a link on your email or in areas where you operate. You will also want to communicate a certain level of detail to your key interested parties, for example letting sponsors and suppliers know that sustainability is at the heart of your event and the work that you do. This can allow the interested parties a chance to showcase their own sustainability credentials, which provides an extra business opportunity for them.

You can also communicate to attendees of your event. A very simple way of doing this is to have a sustainability section on your website so that they know what you are doing, but also what they can do to help you to be more sustainable. You can also consider the options for reporting your sustainability performance as part of your communication planning. For example, you may wish to use all or part of the content from international frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative Event Organizers Sector Supplement (GRI EOSS). This contains a section which has specific categories that relate to the event industry.

Documented information

It is also important to consider how you will document all the relevant information relating to ISO 20121. There should be a record of what has been done, and how it has been done. Documentation does not need to be piles of paper that need a whole new storage area (that wouldn’t be very sustainable). It should be in the way that fits best with your way of working, and could be in the form of pictures, emails, electronic documents, videos, interviews or survey results. Basically it needs to show how you got to where you are and the processes that you have in place that comply with the management system requirements.

This means that anybody who is checking your management system can easily see how your management system works. It is important to remember that you will not need to create lots of new documents for your evidence, but you should be able to signpost to where all of the processes, systems and evidence of engagement are located. For example, you might have a shared drive where you record minutes from sustainability meetings. You would therefore indicate the location of these minutes in the information provided for audits and certification reviews. 


"How To..." Guide

This guide from Positive Impact is a useful resource which summarises the steps of ISO 20121 and can be used as a quick reference point once you have completed this course. 

How to Implement ISO 20121

Learning Legacy

London 2012 have gathered together the lessons that they have learned from the Games, to include micro-reports and case studies. 

London 2012 Learning Legacy


Activity 1

Think about the resources that you will need to implement sustainability and achieve your objectives, the skills and knowledge that staff will need to have, the ways that you will increase awareness and how you will document these processes. 

Activity 2

 Consider how you will communicate about sustainability, and what ways you can do this. 

Katy Carlisle