Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Fairness in trade and sustainable procurement

Fairness in trade and sustainable procurement means calling for responsible practices in relation to workers, environment and society to be followed by our suppliers.

The University has made various commitments to working towards socially responsible and sustainable procurement and supply chains. These commitments include:

Our sustainable procurement goal is to procure goods and services in ways that maximise efficiency and effectiveness while minimising social, environmental and other risks.

When buying through the University’s purchasing systems, or using other University contracted suppliers, students and staff can be confident that environmental and social issues have been taken into account.

The Procurement Office

Through our Fairness in Trade and Sustainable Procurement Programme, we collaborate with the Procurement Office, academics, students, external partners and others on the following activities:

  • Contributing to the assessment of SRS risks and opportunities in procurement/supply chains including providing briefings, and bringing together stakeholders with different expertise
  • Participating in meetings with suppliers to discuss SRS priorities and efforts
  • Participating in User Intelligence Groups for different commodities, to ensure SRS issues are considered in procurement decisions
  • Responding to Electronics Watch factory reports and country/region profiles, in terms of embedding recommendations into the way we work with suppliers
  • Contributing to the development of national and sectoral SRS procurement tools
  • Linking research to procurement and supplier practices through Living Lab projects, including student dissertation placements
  • Coordinating policy development for the University regarding SRS issues in procurement
  • Coordinating the renewal of our Fairtrade University status, including monitoring progress regarding efforts to increase the amount of fair trade products on offer in University outlets
  • Organising activities and events on fairness in trade and sustainable procurement to engage students and staff in discussion and debate

The University of Edinburgh was affiliated to the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) from 2012 to 2017. The WRC is a US-based organisation that aims to monitor working conditions in garment factories that produce university-branded apparel and other garments, on behalf of its higher education institution members. From 2017, the University took the decision to focus on working with UK partners to develop further collaboration on socially responsible garment purchasing, in a manner that reflects the UK and European public procurement context.


Conflict minerals

The University of Edinburgh has become the first higher education institution in the UK adopt a formal conflict minerals policy.

Identifying social and environmental impacts of University supply chains

The University of Edinburgh is working on identifying potential social and environmental impacts of its supply chains, throughout the lifecycle of products and services it procures, from the stage of extracting raw materials all the way up to disposal.

Modern slavery

Graphic: chains connected to price tags with barcodes
In 2016, the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) came into force, which requires commercial organisations with a turnover of over £36 million to publish a statement detailing what actions they are taking to combat any risks of modern slavery in their own operations and in their supply chains.

Make ICT Fair project

Make ICT Fair project partners at a project kick-off meeting in Vienna, November 2017. Credit: Karolien Burvenich.
The University is collaborating with ten partners across Europe on an EU-funded project entitled ‘Make ICT Fair – Reforming Manufacture and Minerals Supply Chains through Policy, Finance and Public Procurement’ from November 2017 to October 2020.