Public Procurement


Public procurement has, in principle, considerable potential to improve the sustainability of food production and consumption both directly and indirectly. The sizeable market share of public meals allows the public sector to drive demand for sustainable products and services and lead by example (see figure). This makes public procurement a key area of focus in sustainability policies like the Sustainable Development Goals, the Farm to Fork Strategy, and the Organic Action Plan, and prompted the creation of specific Green Public Procurement criteria (Sustainability of public meals, Sustainability and food in a policy context).

Key impacts and procurement criteria - English

This figure was taken from the document on the EU’s Green Public Procurement criteria for food, catering services and vending machines. The left side shows the key environmental impacts of the product group food, catering services and vending machines through their life cycle, from production to disposal. On the right side are the approaches included in the GPP criteria to tackle these impacts.

Public procurement for sustainable meals includes offering healthy and tasty food with lower environmental impact, reducing food waste, and raising customers’ awareness of more sustainable eating habits, as well as using eco-labelled chemicals and goods in catering services. It can positively impact sustainability strategies and policies such as climate protection, the circular economy, health and wellbeing, sustainable agriculture, mobility, and economic relations with other countries.

The procurement of public meals can be done at different levels (from purchasing food only to full-service catering) (How does public catering and procurement work?). This has been taken into account in the development of green public procurement criteria so that public procurers can select the criteria based on their procurement needs. The criteria usually follow the sustainability ambitions that are defined at the organisational level (Strategies for Change).

Food supply chains can be very complex and diverse, and the organisation of food provision as well as the procurement models vary considerably (How does public catering and procurement work?). This needs to be taken into account when planning and executing the procurement of public meals.

The tools in this gateway mainly offer guidance in terms of procurement criteria which suggest which kind of products to procure. These criteria work in alignment with Green Public Procurement criteria. Some tools are meant to support procurement officers in setting up tenders more easily or finding potential suppliers; others are more strategic tools to transform public food procurement itself.

Further Information

Tools in the Public Procurement Gateway

Which steps and possible sustainable procurement criteria should procurement officers consider when preparing a call for tenders for catering services? This checklist provides ideas and inspiration.

Use an internal costing system to reduce carbon footprint from foods in lagre-scale kitchens.

How can trade be established between local suppliers and catering companies in times of disrupted value chains? The tool provides general guidelines for connecting with local suppliers in order to reduce public kitchens’ dependency on distant suppliers.

How can trade be created between farmers, small-scale processors, and catering companies? This tool provides a concept for a dialogue between these stakeholders to get to know each other and discuss the potentials and obstacles to business relationships.

Diet for a Green Planet is a five criteria concept with a system perspective that offers framework and tested tools to support sustainable meals.

How can organic food be procured when there is no well-developed organic food supply chain? This tool can help by showing how to map local organic farmers and other organic producers.

The networking office provides information, guidance, and training, and supports the sharing of experiences among relevant stakeholders involved in public meals for young people. It mainly focuses on health and sustainability issues.

Caterers planning to use EU or national eco-labels to promote their organic meals have to ensure that they contain a high share of organic ingredients (at least 95%), leaving no room for a transition phase. Learn how to establish a national or local eco-label specifically for caterers, who may use differing amounts of organic food in their meals.

This tool provides procurers with options to procure food with lower climate impact through shorter supply chains and preference of seasonal food.

Find adaptable procurement criteria for the reduced use and impact of chemicals and consumable goods in the public procurement of catering services in this tool.

This tool provides schools and municipalities options for incorporating organic food criteria into the procurement of catering services.

This tool guides procurers in integrating plant-based options into the public procurement of catering services, based on the EU’s Green Public Procurement (GPP) criteria.

If you plan to procure a new catering service for a public canteen, this tool helps to tackle food waste right from the start. It describes criteria for the procurement of catering services that help motivate catering companies to take actions against food waste.

Procured food items are often delivered in plastic packaging. Encourage the use of more recyclable plastics, like PET, by including an appropriate awarding criterion into your call for tender.

This tool helps to make regional organic agriculture more visible for young people and offers strategies to get more regional organic food onto their plates. It encourages closer links to regional organic farmers, the provision of educational material, and changes in the menu.

This tool shows how to make the provision of sustainable public meals more binding for public institutions by integrating adequate criteria into administrative regulation for sustainable public procurement.

The use of organic food may be minimal or even non-existent in public catering facilities. This tool suggests how public meal providers can start to use organic food and become supporters of this market.

This tool aims at including criteria for sustainably produced palm oil in public procurement.

This tool offers procurement officers a set of criteria on sustainable soy and soy-based products to be included in a call for tender for food or catering services.

This tool offers a template to be used by public catering procurers to help them source inspiring sustainability criteria to be included in tenders and achieve real progress in meeting their organisation’s sustainability goals.

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