Sustainable Food Procurement in the Public Sector
The Scottish Government National Food and Drink Policy made it clear that food should not be considered as just another commodity to procure by the public sector. By its very nature it has the potential to influence our diet and therefore our health, our environment and our economy.
The Scottish Government is setting a Framework for opportunities
The Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan shows in detail how sustainable procurement should be built into the public sector's corporate culture.
Guidance has been published for public bodies on their climate change duties, which includes contributing towards emissions reduction. It highlights the potential role of the sustainable procurement, particularly for food, in a public bodies' response to the Climate Change duties.
There are clearer standards and expectations through the Food in Hospitals Report, which lays down menu planning, food and nutrition standards for the NHS, while the Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) Act 2007 sets out mandatory food and nutrition standards and advocates the procurement of sustainable food.
The Scottish Government Catering and Associated Service Framework Contract is leading by example in demonstrating how sustainable development can be supported when awarding food and drink procurement contracts.
Early in 2011 the Scottish Government published Catering for Change: Buying Food Sustainably in the Public Sector, which explains how working within procurement legislation public sector bodies can support the sustainable procurement of food.
Scottish Government and partners
The Scottish Government believes that small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) can make a big contribution to sustainable food procurement. Working within EU Regulations the Scottish Government is undertaking a wide range of actions to assist them.
The Scottish Government has introduced simple steps to help small and medium sized businesses tendering to the public sector and has established online information on public sector contracts via the free Public Contracts Scotland website. Food and drink companies can register on the site to receive email alerts for upcoming public sector food and drink contracts.
With support from the Scottish Government, the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society has published a guide for small and medium businesses covering all of the critical aspects of the public procurement tendering process. The Guide has been made available through the industry body Scotland Food and Drink.
To improve the opportunity for smaller food producers specialising in a smaller range of products contracts are increasingly being advertised by a geographical area and/or by product when it will encourage greater interest and competition.
The Scottish Government has supported several pilot projects to examine the ability of SMEs to effectively and profitably supply public sector contracts.
We have also commissioned new research to look at the relative merits of Scottish public bodies buying food collaboratively on a geographical basis within Scotland.
Public sector procurement organisations are now holding many more meet-the-buyer events for small and medium businesses with the key objective of fostering a greater understanding of how to tender successfully for public sector food and drink contracts.
An advice helpline is now accessible through Scotland Food & Drink and a wide range of helpful resources are on their website.
In public sector procurement the Scottish Government and many of its public sector partners are committed to driving change. From discussions, with a wide range of organisations, people are telling us that there are many opportunities which can be grasped while maintaining a sense of realism about today's economic climate.
Success means sustainable public sector food procurement becomes second nature and that our food and drink businesses use all their creativity and ambition in supplying our diverse public sector needs.