BSI appointed to audit COP28 against event sustainability metrics

BSI, the business improvement and standards company, has been appointed to audit COP28 to determine whether the implemented management system meets the sustainable events criteria.


The climate conference, which opens in Dubai on 30th November, is being billed as a “transformational COP of action”. While focus will be on agreements made by world leaders at the halfway point to the Paris Climate Agreement’s 2030 goals, BSI’s audit process will cover whether the event has been planned, managed and delivered with consideration for environmental, social and economic impact.


The two-phase audit process for the management system will cover the pre-event activities and the sustainable management of the event itself. The third-party certification process will be successful if the COP28 management system conforms with its stated sustainable development policy. It will only result in certification if requirements are met, and is designed to encourage and enable best practice.


BSI will independently evaluate COP28’s sustainable event management system against sustainability measures across supply chains and relevant stakeholders. The metrics are set out in the Event Sustainability Management System Standard (BS ISO 20121:2012), to which BSI previously certified COP26 and other major events like the Tokyo Olympics. This International Standard has been designed to address the management of improved sustainability throughout the entire event management cycle. It covers environmental, social and economic issues, including resource utilization, materials choice, resource conservation, emissions reduction, accessibility, equity and local economy, and also requires organizers to show how they consider sustainable development issues when choosing suppliers.


The audit is a commitment from COP28 to demonstrate transparency, as BSI will only certify the event if all the requirements of the management system are met. BSI intends for this to become an exemplar event, acting as a template for future global gatherings.


Martin Townsend, Director for BSI Centre of Excellence for Sustainability, said: “COP28 comes at a decisive moment for the world’s sustainability journey, in the wake of climate change. The conference presents a critical opportunity to put the world on a more sustainable path.


“BSI is proud to be appointed by the UAE Climate Change Special Envoy (COP 28 UAE). The implementation of the sustainable event standard, and the independent audit by BSI are clear commitments for the event itself - the lessons from which can offer both the opportunity to learn and improve and create a lasting legacy.”

COP28 approaches as research for BSI shows that 44% of small businesses put tackling climate change amongst the top priorities to focus global resource and data on, and a fifth of consumers see it as the top priority, followed by access to food or ending hunger[1].  


[1] Research conducted for BSI in 2023 by Malvern Insight & Yonder in May 2023. Consumers: Data based on 1,020 interviews (514 UK, 506 USA) with nationally representative sample. SMEs: Data based on 223 interviews (120 UK, 103 USA) with decision-makers within SMEs (up to249 employees).

Achieving certification confirms an organization’s sustainability commitment in relation to an event. Through the criteria established in the standard, it is possible to demonstrate that an event is planned, managed, and delivered with consideration for environmental, social, and economic impacts throughout the entire event management cycle.


BSI sustainability experts will work with the COP28 organizing committee to conduct an audit to independently evaluate the activities, products, and services involved in the 12-day event. A number of brands and events, such as Liverpool Football Club (F.C.), the Tokyo Olympics, World Sailing, G7, and numerous smaller local and community events, have previously been certified to the standard by BSI.


ISO 20121 is designed to help organizations improve their sustainability throughout the entire event management cycle, whether for a conference, entertainment event or sports tournament. The standard provides a framework for organizations to manage the social, economic, and environmental impacts of their events and to improve their sustainability performance and transparency.