Procuring for change: An exploration of the innovation potential of sustainable food procurement

Morley, A. (2021). “Procuring for change: An exploration of the innovation potential of sustainable food procurement.” Journal of Cleaner Production 279, 123410. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.123410.

Abstract: Public procurement is increasingly recognised as a tool to promote more sustainable forms of food production. As the negative consequences of the food system on ecological and human health have become more apparent, public institutions have come under increasing pressure to purchase food in a way that promotes environmental, social and economic benefits. This is reflected by a growing number of initiatives that link the provision of healthy food with support for more environmentally benign food production. This paper explores the potential impact of public procurement on the business strategies of small food producers. In doing so, it seeks to widen the understanding of how demand can support more sustainable forms of food production and supply.

The study is based on a series of qualitative interviews with producers and caterers who have participated in the Food For Life programme based in the UK. The impact of the programme framework is explored with respondents and thematically analysed to distil a series of key impact types and contextual variables. The paper discusses the potential for steering business change within food businesses using public procurement strategies. The unique nature of food systems and the complex relationships with human and ecological health lead to a distinct set of challenges and opportunities for advocates of sustainable procurement.

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