Farm level sustainability data to inform buying decisions for hospitals


For the first time, caterers within the NHS will be able to use new environmental measures for farms as part of their procurement of food and drink. Soil Association Exchange is set to deliver the environmental measures for farms in public sector purchasing as part of the Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) Buying Better Food and Drink agreement. This agreement will be available for all UK public sector organisations to use for buying food and drink through a single online access point.

As well as a shift to more dynamic food procurement – which removes barriers to allow small producers to contribute to larger public sector orders – the updated service will also use Exchange’s holistic farm assessments for sustainability.

Exchange measures the environmental impact of farm operations by assessing six key areas – soil, water, carbon, animal welfare, social impacts and biodiversity.

It does this by collecting data through on-the-ground farm surveys, satellite imagery and other datasets on metrics like soil carbon and bird counts, alongside considering the food production and community benefits a farm provides.


Holistic farm sustainability metrics 

Soil Association Exchange Chief Executive Joseph Gridley says: “It is hugely important for our public institutions to serve food that supports sustainable, British farm businesses and we are excited to start delivering data that will help to make this easier. Exchange is already working with hundreds of farms who have helped to develop our wide-ranging sustainability metrics. These measurements consider the full picture and can help to show schools and hospitals all of the brilliant things that farmers are doing to support nature while producing good quality food.”


Dynamic food procurement principles

This seeks to deliver greater transparency and break down barriers for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). The AgileChain technology being used does this via smart automation, making fulfilment along short supply chains more efficient for producers, distributors and wholesalers.


Coming soon

The Buying Better Food and Drink agreement from CCS will set new parameters for procurement, enabling more informed sourcing decisions based on individual farm levels and the social, environmental, and economic impact of food and drink choices. 

Public sector buyers can express interest in the Buying Better Food & Drink agreement, which is due to launch in late 2024.

Any farmer can get involved by obtaining a free-of-charge sustainability score from Soil Association Exchange.

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