Revaluing Public Sector Food Procurement in Europe: An Action Plan for Sustainability

Foodlinks project

December 2013

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Summary :

This report on Revaluing Public Sector Food Procurement is the result of a unique collaboration between policy-makers, practitioners and scientists working together during the Foodlinks project. It reflects not only the reality of devising and implementing innovative approaches to public sector food procurement throughout Europe, but also offers an Action Plan to help and encourage urban governments to take up the challenge of more sustainable purchasing practices.

2. Developing more sustainable food consumption and production patterns will have a significant impact on sustainable development. One area that European policy makers have identified for furthering sustainable consumption and production is the Greening of Public Procurement. Public sector institutions as centres of procurement – hospitals, care homes, schools, universities, prisons, armed forces, and canteens in government buildings – represent a significant part of the procurement of any national food economy. These agencies and institutions of the state, which serve the public, have a moral responsibility to promote an “ethic of care” for their communities and environment in the ways that they purchase, prepare and serve food.

3. Many public authorities at the local, regional and national levels have adopted sustainable pro-curement practices. A selection of inspiring best practices – five case studies from Malmö (Sweden), Rome (Italy), East Ayrshire (Scotland), Copenhagen (Denmark) and Vienna (Austria) - is presented with the aim of providing an overview of what change is happening across Europe. Each case study is presented according to the following categories: what change is happening; a focus on the driving forces that made change possible; what aspects of sustainability have been prioritized and why; and lastly, the main challenges encountered.

4. The case studies demonstrate that revaluing public procurement is possible and takes different forms depending on the conditions and context of each European city. Although problems come up, creative and imaginative ways are found to resolve them. These different experiences and good practices provide trends of change to inspire municipalities that intend to take up the challenge of more sustainable purchasing practices.

5. The examples demonstrate that public procurement is one of the most powerful tools urban governments have at their disposal to fashion sustainable food systems that prioritize quality foods. They also show that successful long-term change must be tailored to the culture and system of go- vernance in each city or region. As each case study demonstrates, commitment and creativity is vital and the ability to think ‘outside the box’ brings environmental, nancial, health and social rewards.

6. This is the central message of revaluing public sector food procurement to all urban governments: investing today in public food systems may indeed imply a signficant financial effort and sacrfice at

a time of recession, but the savings made in other budgetary accounts will far outweigh and offset the costs of your initial investment.

7. At the policy level, the examples discussed highlight the importance of integration i.e. the adop- tion of an approach that recognizes and emphasizes the cross cutting, multifunctional nature of public food systems and their capacity to deliver socio-economic and environmental benefits.

8. At the practical level, the examples demonstrate the eficacy of a creative procurement approach, which manifests itself in different ways. In all cases, local governments have managed to promote re-localization without breaching the EU legislation on public procurement.

9. We present a two-step action plan to really make a difference to revaluing public sector food procurement:

i. adopt the set of basic indicators set out in the report to guide and monitor progress towards sustainability and the impact of your sustainable food strategy; and

ii. adopt the set of key actions outlined in the report and use them to guide your own policy- making, implementation and monitoring and evaluation practices.