Home → News & Resources → Experts Talk

How do ISO 14001, ISO 20121 and ISO 37001 contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


While there are many definitions that explain sustainability, it is undoubtedly safe to say that being sustainable means to try meeting our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (United Nations Brundtland Commission, 1987).

Sustainability is based on three pillars: the environmental, economic, and social. Based on these pillars, sustainability tries to address their impact in the world we live in. Therefore, being sustainably responsible should be an obligation for everyone.

In 2015, all United Nations (UN) Member States have agreed to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda serves as a blueprint to promote peace and prosperity to the people and the planet, now and in the future. It holds 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that need to be reached by all countries (developed and developing) through partnership in a global scale.

The goals highlight that to end poverty or any other issue, there should be aligned strategies that help on improving health and education, reduce inequality, and stimulate economic growth, while considering the climate change and protecting our forests and oceans (United Nations, 2021).

Around two thousand people, including government and businesses representatives, UN agencies, and civil society have gathered to discuss and see how they can reach these goals. SGDs have made the world leaders to share a common action universally. Their main goal is to reach global development through sustainable development while having an impact in all the countries in every corner of the world (United Nations, 2021). This is stated in the Agenda as follows:

“We reaffirm that every State has, and shall freely exercise, full permanent sovereignty over all its wealth, natural resources and economic activity. We will implement the Agenda for the full benefit of all, for today’s generation and for future generations. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to international law and emphasize that the Agenda is to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations of states under international law.” – The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

There are many organizations that address sustainability in their daily operations. Specifically, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has aligned many ISO standards in sustainable development by offering guidance on how to become more sustainable. ISO is trying to help on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2030 by explaining how some of their standards would help in achieving one or more SDGs when implemented by organizations (ISO, 2021).

Some of the most important ISO standards that are aligned with SDGs of 2030 are ISO 14001, ISO 20121 and ISO 37001. 

ISO 14001 – Become environmentally sustainable 

ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems sets out the criteria for environmental management and compliance. It guides on how to implement an effective environmental management system which can be applicable to any kind of organization despite their field of operations or industry, product or services offered. It proves that organizations are taking into consideration the environmental impact while measuring, addressing, and continually improving all the necessary steps (ISO, 2021).

An effective Environmental Management Systems (EMS) helps organizations to minimize their impact on the environment by identifying the environmental risks and adapting their processes to more eco-friendly ones.

Organizations’ goals and objectives can be aligned to become environmentally sustainable which also increase the customer and the external stakeholders trust, reduce the cost, and open the opportunity to new markets.

ISO case studies have highlighted that by being certified with ISO 14001, organizations have benefited economically by having an increase between 0.5% and 4% of their annual sales revenue.

Many stakeholders have shown to have more interest towards organizations that consider the environmental impacts. In whatever field they are operating, the society is favorizing organizations that have implemented an EMS and are carefully looking for new ways on how to improve themselves and the environment.

Implementing an EMS is a key element nowadays since we are seeing drastic changes in our environment, and we need to urgently decrease our impact on our planet. Therefore, being certified with ISO 14001 denotes to your customers, external stakeholders, and suppliers that you take into great consideration the matters of sustainable environments. This approach gives your organization a competitive advantage since it can create a positive impact and improve your organization’s reputation, thus leading to an increase in sales and offering potential ways to enter to new markets.

Organizations that have not implemented ISO 14001 yet, seem to risk losing their customer base by being replaced with other competitors that consider the environmental impact and are certified with ISO 14001.

Thus far, around 350.000 organizations have been certified with ISO 14001 in nearly 600.000 sites. The country having the most certificates of ISO 14001 is China, followed by Japan, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland etc. While China remains to be the first country to have the most sites and Japan the second, France comes up the third which is then followed by Italy and Spain (ISO Survey, 2021).

There are many benefits that ISO 14001 offers and organizations that implement the standard are helping to reduce climate change, eliminate the negative effects of their business to the environment on land or at sea through improvement in every part of the business life cycle, and to reduce air pollution.

Accordingly, ISO 14001 is contributing on many SDGs such as:

Goal 1: No poverty
Goal 2: Zero hunger
Goal 3: Good health and well-being
Goal 4: Quality education
Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy
Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
Goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
Goal 13: Climate action
Goal 14: Life below water
Goal 15: Life on land

Therefore, organizations that implement ISO 14001 not only have a competitive advantage and create a positive impact on the environment but also help on reaching the SDGs which are considered as a critical point to reach a better and sustainable future.

ISO 20121 – Creating sustainable events

Another standard that helps on the achievement of SDGs is ISO 20121 – Event Sustainability Management Systems. It is intended to address the management of improved sustainability throughout the entire event (of any type or event-related activity) management cycle (ISO, 2021).

In addition, by implementing ISO 20121 your organization will help the economy and society to reach many SDGs by building job opportunities and gender equality, improving the well-being of citizens, and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. Organizations that have adopted this standard will also help on SDGs to preserve the environment, by choosing to recycle, to reduce food waste, to reusing water, to use the energy efficiently, promote the use of renewable sources of energy, and reduce the environmental impact:

Goal 3: Good health and well-being 
Goal 5: Gender equality
Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation
Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy
Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
Goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
Goal 10: Reduced inequalities
Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
Goal 13: Climate action
Goal 16: Peace, justice, and strong institutions

ISO 37001 – Fighting bribery for a sustainable development

An organization’s credibility is based on transparency and trust, yet many institutions and businesses encounter bribery as a widespread phenomenon.

ISO 37001 – Anti-bribery Management Systems can help your organization implement reasonable and proportionate measures designed to prevent, detect, and respond to bribery since it is applicable to small, medium, and large organizations in all sectors, including public, private and not-for-profit sectors (ISO, 2021).

Corruption is among the greatest obstacles to economy and social development (World Bank, 2010) and ISO 37001 is an important standard that contributes to the achievement of multiple SDGs by enabling a more sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.

ISO 37001 helps the reduction of gaps in wealth as a key contributor to poverty all over the world (Goal 1 – No poverty) and helps on keeping a more sustainable community for all (Goal 11 – Sustainable cities and communities). Additionally, it is worth mentioning that bribery is a common feature in the poorer places. It was reported that three in ten people have paid bribes or used their connections to get a service done (Kukutschka, 2021). Practices like this usually effect the destruction of sustainable economic development. Having ISO 37001 in place is a great way to demonstrate accountability and responsibility for the actions or services that an organization offers to its community. This standard helps promote peace, justice, and strong institutions by improving transparency and accountability at all levels, from small organizations to multinationals and governments (Goal 16 – Peace, justice, and strong institutions).

Likewise, it is seen as an essential tool for overcoming the barriers to international trade. Just like many other International Standards, it promotes economic growth by adjusting a common language and internationally approved requirements which can be used in the development of national and international regulation (Goal 8 – Decent work and economic growth). Therefore, ISO 37001 aligns with the following SDGs: 

Goal 1: No poverty
Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
Goal 16: Peace, justice, and strong institutions

Let the world know you are committed to sustainable development by getting certified with us!

MSECB helps organizations show commitment by providing them with valuable evaluation and certification against internationally recognized ISO management systems such as the above-mentioned standards.

We are accredited by the International Accreditation Service (IAS) to conduct audits and provide certification services for some of the key management systems standards that help on the achievement of SDGs:

ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems,
ISO 20121 – Event Sustainability Management Systems, and
ISO 37001 – Anti-Bribery Management Systems. 

The International Accreditation Service (IAS) offers impartial confirmation that a certification body works at the highest level of ethical, legal and technical standards. By getting certified with MSECB, your organization not only will make sure that it is in conformity with the widely known ISO standards and best practices, but also will contribute on creating a better sustainable world.

To get started get a Free Quote or contact us at: For a better understanding of the certification process, refer to this link.


Other Articles