The purchasing pool of the Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia: Prioritising safety, responsibility and local products

The Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia ran a competitive tender in 2016 for the supply of foodstuffs to its purchasing pool for a two-year contract period. The tender was run under the theme of “Responsibility and Local food”, aiming to increase the use of local products including responsibly sourced fish and organically grown produce.

The theme of responsibility was chosen in response to the wishes of local suppliers. The call for tenders referred to an ongoing nationwide Finnish local food programme and the objectives of the national programme for developing organic farming, emphasising how the hospital district’s purchasing pool hopes to contribute towards these programmes’ goals during the coming contract period.

Responsibility was assessed in relation to factors including traceability and animal welfare. Tenders had to specify how the ingredients in products will be traceable all the way back to their origins on farms. Spot checks will be conducted during the purchasing period to ensure that these traceability details are accurate.

Other favoured factors included the use of Finnish ingredients and organically and locally produced foods, including responsibly sourced fish, as well as animal welfare considerations, efforts to enhance traceability, and measures to avoid the use of genetically modified products also in animal fodder.

From goals to purchasing criteria

The purchasing pool’s objectives were set out in the call for tenders. Wholesale suppliers were urged to include local products among their offerings. Partial offers for certain product groups were also permitted, to enable direct procurement from small-scale producers. Freshness was included among the criteria used to compile point scores. Catering services were given freedom to separately source local foods for purposes such as special menus on thematic days.

Responsible fishing was included among the criteria, with suppliers obliged to ensure that their products meet the ethical principles specified in the calls for tenders. For fish products this could be demonstrated the certification of products under MSC or a similar scheme.

During procurement planning the need to harmonise delivery schedules for each product group for the whole purchasing pool was duly considered. Suppliers offering centralised transportation and logistics services provided model delivery arrangements and delivery day schedules for each product group for the contract period.

Dialogue with the market essential to successful procurement

Defining harmonised delivery arrangements for a large regional pool of purchasers can be challenging. “A lot of work went into the final call for tenders, but it was worth it, since the outcome has been positive,” explains the hospital district’s purchasing specialist Maria Ruosteluoma.

According to Ruosteluoma, one crucial success factor was that a draft call for tenders was circulated in advance among potential suppliers to obtain their comments. This enabled the purchasing pool’s wishes to be highlighted at the earliest stage of the tendering process, making it easier for suppliers to offer products meeting the purchasers’ needs. This also reduced the likelihood of complaints slowing the competitive tendering process.

At the same time, the named product categories for competitive tendering were reorganised, with an increased focus on bulk products and mass produced foodstuffs. Only the products consumed in the largest quantities were put out to tender. This helped to reveal differences in pricing between suppliers. In the wholesale category, local products were preferentially procured through the awarded contracts. This preference is realised in practice during the contract period, but it was important to facilitate such actions in advance early in the tendering process.

Impartial environmental data in demand

The Hospital District of South Ostrobothnia recently participated together with other procurers, suppliers, producers and expert organisations in workshops and comment rounds arranged to help define guidelines for the purchasing of responsibly produced foodstuffs.

According to Maria Ruosteluoma, the workshops helped to clarify the kinds of criteria that should be used in competitive tenders. “From the procurers’ perspective it’s essential that impartial background information on environmental impacts is easily available,” she explains. “We must then use our own professional skills to draft calls for tenders that include the necessary criteria, with regard to our objectives.”

“When it comes to animal welfare issues, for instance, it’s hard for a layperson to work out which aspects are most essential,” adds Ruosteluoma. “We hope to get further information on animal rights issues in future.”

More information:
Procurement specialist Maria Ruosteluoma

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Page last updated 7.6.2018

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