Publication - Advice and guidance

Catering for change: buying food sustainably in the public sector

Guidance for anyone involved in the procurement of food or catering services in the public sector.

20 page PDF

490.6 kB

20 page PDF

490.6 kB

Catering for change: buying food sustainably in the public sector
Sustainable Food Procurement - Objectives

20 page PDF

490.6 kB

Sustainable Food Procurement - Objectives

The key objectives of a sustainable food procurement policy should include the following:

  • compliance with procurement legislation - this is fundamental to any public procurement and this guidance shows you how to pursue a sustainable approach to buying food without breaching legislation
  • seeking opportunities to derive social, economic, and environmental benefit
  • value for money, considering whole life costs
  • contracts that are structured, written and advertised in such a way that they appeal to the widest possible number of suppliers, including smaller suppliers
  • contributing to achievement of the Scottish Dietary Goals
  • appropriate quality assurance standards for production, food safety, and animal welfare standards
  • consideration of where the main sustainability impacts in food supply may be, for example, in primary production, processing, packaging or distribution

Value for Money

The Scottish Procurement Policy Handbook, which applies to all public bodies, makes clear that the overarching aim of public sector procurement activity in Scotland must be the achievement of value for money for the taxpayer. The Handbook defines value for money as "the optimum combination of whole life cost and quality (or fitness for purpose) to meet the user's requirement.". The Handbook also says that, as part of value for money, "due regard to other relevant organisational policies is important, for example, policies in relation to corporate social responsibility/sustainability".

Value for money does not mean necessarily buying the cheapest products available. It means that you should achieve a balance that takes account of the quality of food as well as its cost.

Sustainability is an important part of value for money in the procurement of food so this guidance note interprets value for money as the optimum combination of whole life cost, quality and sustainability.

Sustainable Development requires conscious strategy and planning.

You should measure the quality of the food you buy not only by the quality of the produce, but also by the extent that the food you buy contributes towards both your own organisation's and national objectives, such as sustainable economic growth, community planning, health improvement and addressing climate change.

Sustainable Development Principles in Relation to Sustainable Food Procurement

The following gives an indication of the types of objectives that your sustainable food procurement policy might help to deliver.



  • Secure value for money
  • Avoid/Reduce waste
  • Reduce energy use
  • Encourage participation by social enterprises and SMEs
  • Encourage new markets for sustainable foods
  • Contribute to the well-being of communities
  • Contribute to sustainable economic growth
  • Reduce use and waste of natural resources by adopting cleaner processes and technologies
  • Reduce energy input
  • Protect or enhance natural resources and biodiversity
  • Reduce waste (fertilisers, food and packaging)
  • Reduce water use
  • Reduce packaging
  • Use of recycled materials in packaging



  • Raise awareness of the benefits of healthy foods
  • Increasing access to and availability of healthy food
  • Contribute to food security
  • Promote training and employment
  • Promote animal welfare
  • Recognise the value of good food, and nutrition with significant impacts for health and the environment
  • Promote good nutrition and health
  • Maintain or improve food safety and quality
  • Guard against negative impacts which may be attributed to high salt, sugar, fat, some preservatives
  • Positively influence the diets of staff and customers
  • Contribute to the Scottish Dietary Goals



Telephone: 0300 244 9802

Scottish Government
Food, Drink and Rural Communities
B1 Spur
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
EH11 3XD