Foodservice businesses wanting to win large government catering contracts will need to commit to net zero emissions and publish clear and credible carbon reduction plans or face exclusion from tenders.
The Cabinet Office announced the new measures this week that will come into effect from September. They cover all major government contracts including food and catering services and are designed to support the government’s plan to build back greener after the coronavirus pandemic.
Prospective suppliers bidding for contracts worth above £5m a year will need to have committed to the government’s target of net zero by 2050 and have published a carbon reduction plan that includes scope 1 and 2 direct and indirect-owned carbon emissions as well as some scope 3 supply chain emissions, including business travel, employee commuting, transportation, distribution and waste. Scope 3 emissions tend to account for the lion’s share of emissions for customer-facing food businesses who operate on client sites.
The £5m threshold, which is likely to exclude smaller catering contracts, has been put in place so as not to overly burden and potentially exclude small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from bidding for government work.
“The government spends more than £290bn on procurement every year, so it’s important we use this purchasing power to help transform our economy to net-zero,” said minister for efficiency and transformation, Lord Agnew. “Requiring companies to report and commit to reducing their carbon emissions before bidding for public work is a key part of our world leading approach.”
All companies bidding for major government contracts will need to comply with the measure, not just those who are successful in winning contracts. The government said this would further widen the impact of the measure as more suppliers commit to achieving net zero.
The measures will apply to all central government departments and arm’s length bodies.
Public sector food procurement rules are set to undergo a government review this summer. In April, the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee (EFRA) concluded that the government had largely failed to improve food production standards, animal welfare and sustainability through the standards it sets for public sector food.
Great statement but the detail on those Scope 3 emissions is going to be key. If businesses only need to count ‘business travel, employee commuting, transportation, distribution and waste’ in Scope 3 emissions, this could ignore by far the biggest source of emissions in the food system, producing the food itself – with intensively-produced meat and dairy by far the biggest contributors.
Having ‘transport’ included could favour local producers, which is a bonus.
It’s all pointing to needing to climate and nature-proof the government’s buying standards themselves, to actually impact what’s on public plates, with less and better meat to favour better UK producers and the health of some of our most vulnerable people