Ian Stenton, Head of Sustainability, Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust, shares the experience he had when procuring a new catering contract using the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ Balanced Scorecard.
In 2014, Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust (RLB) began a new tender for our hotel services and soft facilities management (FM) contract, which incorporated cleaning, portering and catering, including some retail and all patient meals. There was a desire from the start to increase the sustainability aspects of the new contract.
Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group had recently published their social value strategy and they were keen to offer advice and support. They put me in contact with Lucy Antal, who was the sustainable food cities coordinator for Liverpool and is now a close friend.
One aim of the work was to make use of existing best practice – we felt this would make it easier for bidders to understand and could help to standardise sustainability requirements in FM contracts for the NHS or wider public sector. For the catering aspect of the contract, two standards were chosen.
- The Soil Association's Food for Life Catering Mark (now rebranded Food for Life Served Here).
- The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Balanced Scorecard for public sector food procurement.
Food for Life was chosen due to its focus on local foods; we hoped this would encourage bidders to use local suppliers and therefore increase the local social value for the contract. The Balanced Scorecard is a comprehensive overview of all aspects of sustainability for public sector food procurement and fitted in well with our ethos of supporting existing standards.
When writing the contract, we didn't specify any aspects as more important than others - the idea was to leave the field open and to encourage innovation from all the bidders. Although the sustainability aspects only made up five per cent of the contract award, many bidders saw it as a way to differentiate themselves and show the additional value they could bring.
All the bidders responded with some excellent ideas to meet the requirements and to deliver social value. The winning contractor, ISS, had worked with the Prince's Trust to train and recruit local young people and worked with us to investigate the feasibility of some local production, which was included as part of a Liverpool European Union funding bid.
In addition to these outcomes, the process really helped to raise the profile of sustainability within the trust and more widely. Lucy and I have presented at events in Liverpool, London, Edinburgh, Germany, Spain and Denmark. We are also both still part of the Government Food Procurement Task Force, which is working to further promote the Balanced Scorecard throughout the public sector.
We have widened our focus on food from just the catering contract, launching our second Food & Drink Strategy at the trust 2017 annual general meeting. We have worked with Liverpool Public Health, our Royal Voluntary Services and the Cabinet Office's Nudge Unit on a sugar drinks trial that was covered by Tokyo TV.
Focusing on one contract (albeit a very large one) enabled the trust to understand the additional benefit from promoting sustainability and work continues in other aspects.