With public procurement and sourcing policies gaining more media attention than ever before, our Delivering Net Zero Together webinar couldn’t have been more timely.
More than 50 public procurement experts from local authorities and public sector catering organisations joined the event in February, which saw former NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts speak to industry stakeholders.
The audience heard how farming is at the heart of solving climate change, and is in a position to do some heavy lifting for other parts of the economy so far as net zero commitments are concerned.
Farmers' net zero ambitions
Will Oliver, a fourth generation arable and poultry farmer from Leicestershire, emphasised farmers’ net zero aspirations, and assured the audience that beyond the ethical aspects of working towards net zero, he has a connection to net zero from a business perspective.
He said: "There’s a strong link between net zero and profitability. What works for net zero makes good business sense."
Think on a local level
Urging delegates to reassess how they think about procurement, Professor Jude Capper, Chair of Sustainable Beef and Sheep Systems at Harper Adams University, said: "The carbon footprint of the foods we eat vary considerably. Global averages are published but are inappropriate given all food production is regional. We need to think on a local level."
The audience was reminded that British landscape is not suitable for growing crops everywhere, and 60% of land cannot be used for agricultural production other than grazing.
Public sector food
Tim Radcliffe from East Lancashire’s NHS Trust gave an insight into procurement.
He said: "95% of all public sector food is supplied by five companies. British farmers and growers need to be part of that supply chain. We need to shorten supply chains not lengthen them.
"If each public sector caterer can change just one item to British that they buy, it can make a massive difference. The story behind our food is important and the public sector can drive change."
Working in tandem with nature
The take-home message from the event was that if we work in tandem with nature, we can make the best use of every hectare for viable food production.
On reflection of the event, Mr Roberts concluded: "It was great to see people passionate about public procurement join the event from Northumberland through to Cornwall and hear how we can collectively work together and champion the benefits of great British food."
You can watch a recording of the session below.
The webinar was chaired by Stuart Roberts, former Deputy President of the NFU and included a panel of leading voices within food and farming, climate change mitigation and public sector buying.
Stuart Roberts, former NFU Deputy President
Stuart Roberts farms 400 hectares in Hertfordshire and Kent. A third generation arable and livestock farmer, Stuart has also worked for Defra and the Food Standards Agency and held senior management roles within the meat supply chain.
The farm incorporates around 300 hectares of combinable crops supplying grain to more than 50 artisan mills and bakers throughout the UK. The remaining land is predominantly permanent pasture and a small amount of woodland.
The farm includes two cattle herds, a commercial Simmental/Hereford herd producing 14-month-old store cattle and a small but growing pedigree herd of Hereford cattle. The business also includes a small flock of laying hens.
Stuart was elected to the post of NFU Deputy President after serving two years as Vice President. He previously chaired the NFU Hertfordshire branch and served on both the East Anglian livestock and combinable crops board.
Stuart has previously served on the boards of Red Tractor and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
Professor Jude Capper, PhD DSc (h.c.) ARAgS
Jude L Capper, PhD, DSc (h.s.) ARAgS, is the ABP Chair and Professor of Sustainable Beef and Sheep systems at Harper Adams University, and is an independent livestock sustainability consultant.
Jude's research focuses on modelling the sustainability of livestock production systems, specifically dairy, beef and lamb. She is currently working on projects relating to on-farm greenhouse gas emissions from UK beef production; climate footprints of smallholder farming; the impacts of livestock health and welfare on system sustainability; and technology use in South American beef production.
She sits on the National Beef Association board, is Chair of the Route Panel for Agriculture, Environment and Animal Care, and Vice-Chair of the Green Apprenticeships Advisory Panel at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.
She has an active social media presence and spends a considerable amount of time de-bunking some of the more commonly-heard myths relating to livestock production. In 2021, Jude was awarded both an honorary doctorate (DSc honoris causa) by Harper Adams University, and the Sir John Hammond Award by the British Society of Animal Science and British Cattle Breeders Club, in recognition of her contributions to the UK livestock industry.
Will Oliver is a fourth generation farmer from the heart of England on the Leicestershire/Warwickshire border.
It is a diversified family farm working hard to reduce their carbon footprint by using organic manures as efficiently as possible.
The arable enterprise has been the mainstay of the farm for generations is now benefitting from the addition of the new poultry enterprise.
Tim Radcliffe brings thirty years of corporate, military, hospitality and restaurant ownership experience to the NHS. Tim’s approach is that every patient deserves to eat restaurant-quality meals.
A passionate proponent of food as medicine, he has taken his East Lancashire Catering service into the spotlight, appearing on Channel Four’s Food Unwrapped, and published on many occasions to showcase the opportunities, rather than the restrictions, of providing over 5,000 high-quality meals a day.
With his procurement and service recognised by the Soil Association, Care Quality Commission and through CQUIN, Tim’s next target is to have the first hospital in the Good Food Guide.