Public expenditure on goods, services and works constitute approximately 14% of the EU GDP accounting for 1.8 trillion € annually. Total expenditure on food and catering services in EU is 206 billion €. The sector includes 1.5 million enterprises, has a turnover of EUR 354 billion €, and employs 8 million people. The turnover of the total EU contract catering industry in 2008 was 24.6 billion € and employed 600.000 people.
It follows that public food procurement can be a huge driver for transforming the European food system by increasing the availability and accessibility to safe and nutritious food, improving dietary habits and reducing the incidence of obesity, minimizing health inequalities and reducing the environmental impact of the food system.
The European Commission has provided example of good practice and guidance for Green Public Procurement (GPP) to assist public authorities in providing “goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured”.
GPP is a voluntary instrument, meaning that member states and public authorities can determine the extent to which they implement it. GPP must comply with a set of guiding principles, including free movement of goods and services and freedom of establishment, non-discrimination and equal treatment, proportionality and mutual recognition, and transparency and verifiability.
In the COCOREADO project, we are looking at different ways to strengthen the position of the farmer in the public procurement system. In theory, this could be done by specifying tender requirements for local food, seasonal food, short food supply chains, low environmental impact and fair price for food commodities. However, due to the existence of a single market in EU-28, the GPP call for tenders can’t require products produced and processed locally. Furthermore, in the original proposal for the GPP seasonal food was included as a valid selection criterion, but it was removed in the final version. Nevertheless, there are other selection criteria that could provide advantages for farmers, including agricultural products labelled with geographical indications, organic food products, and fair and ethical trade products, that are all valid GPP selection criteria.
In order to advance sustainable public food procurement in the EU, the COCOREADO project will start by facilitating a sharing of experiences with specifying tender requirements for public food procurement across the EU member states, while at the same time assessing the legal constraints for sourcing local and seasonal food. Subsequently, we will develop standards and/or certificates for sustainable food procurement, and co-create and adapt a decision support system to assist public authorities in specifying tender requirements for local and seasonal food.
We will bring together national and local public authorities across the EU to share experiences on specifying tender requirements for food. We will select and discuss current initiatives for public procurement, and we will organize multi-stakeholder workshops with farmers, consumers, kitchen workers and representatives from public authorities.
At the same time, we will assess the legal constraints for sourcing local and seasonal food from small producers, and investigate how legislative texts directly or indirectly result in a centralization of tenders, making it difficult for small producers to compete when making a bid. Based on this we will develop catalogue of how existing public procurement legislation could be adjusted to make local and seasonal food more competitive.
To enhance the position of the farmer in the public food procurement system, we will develop standards/certificates based on environmental and social indicators, and outline how the standards/certificates may be used by public authorities to demand the most sustainable solutions for their food procurement.
Finally, we will co-create a decision support system (DSS) to assist public authorities in specifying tender requirements for sustainable public procurement of food. As an integrated part of the co-creation process, we will consult end users throughout the development and testing phase to make sure that the DSS is easy to use, provide trustworthy and relevant information, use terms that are recognized and meaningful, is adapted to national and local conditions.
Christian Bugge Henriksen – University of Copenhagen