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Municipality of Copenhagen

Public meals in Copenhagen are a significant part of the daily served meals offered by 900 public kitchens with 1100 employed to cook for the citizens. Copenhagen has worked hard since 2001 to reach the goal of 90 percent organic food in public meals by actively using sustainable public food procurement as an instrument for change. Being a procurement lawyer is not just an ordinary office job, as a procurement lawyer and public purchaser, you are a very important key in bringing the political goal to life and the buying power can be seen as a tool that can help create needed changes towards a more sustainable system. The requirements and potentially small changes that you can write into the tender documents may be the decisive factor that contributes to the food chain starting to move in a more sustainable direction which then can create noticeable changes in primary production also in distant countries.

Before writing a tender with an aim to achieve 90 percent organic food in public meals it is important to start a dialogue with several parties. First of all with the kitchen staff to ensure that the wanted changes are doable and can be understood by the implementing staff. The market also needs to be included to understand whether they can deliver and to gain insight into how far their development and research have matured, when trying to create something new and innovative via public procurement. Following such an inquiry phase another market dialogue starts, where participants can ask written questions, which then subsequently are answered and published (anonymous) to all participants.​ Hereby participants can see where the tender is moving towards, especially if it is slightly different or more innovative than normal. And the market is then much better prepared to respond to the final tender material.

In that sense the latest tender process relate to the Food Strategy of Copenhagen have incorporated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as guiding principles. How companies were fulfilling the SDGs was used as a tool to steer the contract and following up on the goal. The goal of 90 percent organic food in Copenhagen is still the existing goal, but the tender was raised to 100 percent, along with the prevention of food waste both on the supply side as well as in the kitchens. As an example, a function (or button) was created to allow purchase of food that was close to best before dates or maybe had smaller damages to the packages that didn’t cause any harm to the food. This will help prevent the food waste on the supply side. But there has also deliberately been created links and criteria in the contract that allows for later changes in case it proves that a certain element potential generate food waste. If such a case occurs, then the contract can be adjusted and made more sustainable. In addition, the contract also had more awareness of seasonality on where the food is grown and diversity to cater for different sorts, colors and shapes for instance in the provision of apples. 

Climate-friendly food, transportation, and packaging of food have gotten a bigger focus in Copenhagen. Copenhagen has a demand for clean packaging along with P.E.T packaging for fresh food with the aim to recycle a larger proportion of the packaging material. In dialogue with suppliers concerns on transportation are raised and they are asked on the distance delivered by green vehicles, and they have a no-flight policy on food. The goods need to be sustainable, fairly traded, and if there as an example is a use of palm oil this has to be sustainable palm oil. And the suppliers were asked on their policy on the use of sustainable soya and requires a policy related to this, and fairly traded goods that is 3party certified were used as a competitive element of the tender.

Procurement is also seen as a tool for teaching and reaching goals beyond buying food. For that reason, newsletters are developed in collaboration with the suppliers. Here for instance the aim could be to educate on food diversity and seasonality. As an example of this is an apple case taught in kinder gardens, where they must recognize at least six different types of apples based on the look, taste, and smell. The importance of diversity’s impact on insects is also taught. Related to that is a also an aspiration related to food cooked for elderly, where it is important that they also experience the seasons changing through the consumed food. In that sense we also have a focus on teaching the chefs in both elderly homes and other public canteens about climate-friendly food and how to make more food from the products received. Using more climate-friendly food means a higher focus on the use of the season’s food and vegetables along with a reduction of meat intake and it becomes a necessity when changing the composition of the purchase but remaining within budget. That was the case for organic food, which has been slightly more expansive than the non-organic products. Using fruits and vegetables when they are in season does help on the overall cost dimension.  

As a new element that we proactively work with is the climate weight and impact of consumed food. Hereby reflecting recommendations from DTU (Dansk Teknisk Universitet) that emerged by implementing the principles in the Copenhagen strategy for food and meals on nutritious and climate-friendly meals, where focus is put on the cooking and serving climate friendly food.

Based on inspiration from the EAT Lancet report and our Official Dietary Guidelines (, DTU worked with Copenhagen Municipality on how to include more green meals for children, the elderly, and socially vulnerable groups. This resulted in specific categories of food that was pointed to as very important for the climate friendly cooking and in the procurement, this was included in the evaluation part as a calculation on the climate impact of the food with the following equation.

It was done by adding a column to the evaluation sheet and including the notion of a climate weight to the procurement. As an example, will lentils and nuts have a positive climate weight of 10, whereas milk only has a weight of 1.

Again, the link between food and education is deliberately established. Copenhagen Municipality recently made a potato tender, where in addition to the purchase of the potatoes, it is linked to teaching materials for children on how a potato is grown as part of biology class or in math to calculate how much land is needed to grow the needs of our school.

Beyond larger purchase orders there is also work going on to include smaller and medium sized companies to become suppliers. This is exemplified via a Fish Tender focusing on these suppliers to deliver the catch of the day within each season.

The vision of the public procurement department in Copenhagen is a closer networking environment when working in procurement where knowledge is shared between different professions. When work is being done to create changes, it needs to work for everybody involved. A network of procurement officers has been created in Denmark and together with the Ministry ideas are shared,, guidelines are created, and best practice on how to do stuff, hereby obviously securing that everything aligns with the EU regulations.