Evaluate policy compliance in CI

Adding Policy Evaluation to your continuous integration pipelines helps you detect and prevent cases where code changes would cause policy compliance to become worse compared to your baseline.

The recommended strategy for Policy Evaluation in a CI setting involves evaluating a local image and comparing the results to a baseline. If the policy compliance for the local image is worse than the specified baseline, the CI run fails with an error. If policy compliance is better or unchanged, the CI run succeeds.

This comparison is relative, meaning that it's only concerned with whether your CI image is better or worse than your baseline. It's not an absolute check to pass or fail all policies. By measuring relative to a baseline that you define, you can quickly see if a change has a positive or negative impact on policy compliance.

How it works

When you do Policy Evaluation in CI, you run a local policy evaluation on the image you build in your CI pipeline. To run a local evaluation, the image that you evaluate must exist in the image store where your CI workflow is being run. Either build or pull the image, and then run the evaluation.

To run policy evaluation and trigger failure if compliance for your local image is worse than your comparison baseline, you need to specify the image version to use as a baseline. You can hard-code a specific image reference, but a better solution is to use environments to automatically infer the image version from an environment. The example that follows uses environments to compare the CI image with the image in the production environment.


The following example on how to run policy evaluation in CI uses the Docker Scout GitHub Action to execute the compare command on an image built in CI. The compare command has a to-env input, which will run the comparison against an environment called production. The exit-on input is set to policy, meaning that the comparison fails only if policy compliance has worsened.

This example doesn't assume that you're using Docker Hub as your container registry. As a result, this workflow uses the docker/login-action twice:

  • Once for authenticating to your container registry.
  • Once more for authenticating to Docker to pull the analysis results of your production image.

If you use Docker Hub as your container registry, you only need to authenticate once.


Due to a limitation in the Docker Engine, loading multi-platform images or images with attestations to the image store isn't supported.

For the policy evaluation to work, you must load the image to the local image store of the runner. Ensure that you're building a single-platform image without attestations, and that you're loading the build results. Otherwise, the policy evaluation fails.

Also note the pull-requests: write permission for the job. The Docker Scout GitHub Action adds a pull request comment with the evaluation results by default, which requires this permission. For details, see Pull Request Comments.

name: Docker

    tags: ["*"]
      - "main"
    branches: ["**"]

  REGISTRY: docker.io

      pull-requests: write

    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
      - name: Checkout repository
        uses: actions/checkout@v4

      - name: Setup Docker buildx
        uses: docker/setup-buildx-action@v3

      - name: Log into registry ${{ env.REGISTRY }}
        uses: docker/login-action@v3
          registry: ${{ env.REGISTRY }}
          username: ${{ secrets.REGISTRY_USER }}
          password: ${{ secrets.REGISTRY_TOKEN }}

      - name: Extract metadata
        id: meta
        uses: docker/metadata-action@v4
          images: ${{ env.IMAGE_NAME }}

      - name: Build image
        id: build-and-push
        uses: docker/build-push-action@v4
          context: .
          tags: ${{ steps.meta.outputs.tags }}
          labels: ${{ steps.meta.outputs.labels }}
          sbom: ${{ github.event_name != 'pull_request' }}
          provenance: ${{ github.event_name != 'pull_request' }}
          push: ${{ github.event_name != 'pull_request' }}
          load: ${{ github.event_name == 'pull_request' }}

      - name: Authenticate with Docker
        uses: docker/login-action@v3
          username: ${{ secrets.DOCKER_USER }}
          password: ${{ secrets.DOCKER_PAT }}

      - name: Compare
        if: ${{ github.event_name == 'pull_request' }}
        uses: docker/scout-action@v1
          command: compare
          image: ${{ steps.meta.outputs.tags }}
          to-env: production
          platform: "linux/amd64"
          ignore-unchanged: true
          only-severities: critical,high
          organization: ${{ env.DOCKER_ORG }}
          exit-on: policy

The following screenshot shows what the GitHub PR comment looks like when a policy evaluation check fails because policy has become worse in the PR image compared to baseline.

Policy evaluation comment in GitHub PR

This example has demonstrated how to run policy evaluation in CI with GitHub Actions. Docker Scout also supports other CI platforms. For more information, see Docker Scout CI integrations.