Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Sustainable procurement

The University’s Procurement Strategy 2016-21 makes commitments to socially responsible and sustainable procurement. Our aim is to embed relevant social responsibility and sustainability requirements into the procurement process.

Sustainable procurement top banner 2017-18 SRS reporting

Our purchasing practices are also governed by our Fair Trade Policy, Conflict Minerals Policy, Good Food Policy, Modern Slavery Statements and Community Benefits approach. The University is affiliated to Electronics Watch, and a member of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, Edinburgh Fair Trade City Group, and Scotland’s International Development Alliance.

The University’s total procurement spend in 2017/18 was £312.5 million, 47 per cent of this procurement spend was with small and medium size enterprises.

University Procurement Strategy and Annual Procurement Report

Sustainable procurement prioritisation

The University has worked 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.

This includes being one of the first institutions to trial the methodology set out by the Scottish Government as part of the Sustainable Procurement Duty introduced in the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014. This process involves identifying potential environmental and human issues in University supply chains, and taking steps to address these at an appropriate stage in the procurement cycle.

Five overarching categories were selected as priorities for assessment. Categories including electronics; laboratory equipment; food and travel have all been reviewed and assessments completed. The Estates category continues to be under review.

Sustainable Procurement Prioritisation

Modern slavery

The University published its second Modern Slavery Statement this past year. The Statement details what steps the University takes to combat modern slavery, relevant policies and procedures, and an action plan to ensure sustained focus on this issue.

The updated Statement was signed off by the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Committee, Audit & Risk Committee, and University Court, and then published on the University website, linked from the footer of each web page.

To help improve the knowledge of staff and students; and help the University uphold its zero tolerance approach to modern slavery, online training courses have been created. Over the next year, the University will promote this to staff and students. Work will continue to engage directly with suppliers on modern slavery.

Modern Slavery

Fair Trade

The University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh University Students' Association received a two-star Fairtrade Award in 2018, marking nearly 15 years of support for ethical and responsible purchasing.

A total of 12 pilot universities and colleges were encouraged through the new scheme to report in detail on their commitment to fair trade practices and responsible purchasing habits. For the first time students, trained by the NUS, ran on-site audits to check evidence and review our practices.

The new award structure encourages partnership between sustainability, catering and academic staff in the institution plus the union and students to cover procurement, awareness raising and campaigning activities. There are also opportunities to engage through teaching and the flexibility to receive points for trying out new and innovative ways to engage. The programme is delivered by the NUS in partnership with the Fairtrade Foundation and with support from the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges.

Edinburgh became the first Scottish university to attain Fairtrade status in 2004 following a vote by students. It will now remain a Fairtrade University until at least 2020.

Fair Trade Commitment

Make ICT Fair Project

The University is collaborating with ten partners from across Europe on a three year project, which commenced in 2017 and is funded by the European Union. The ‘Make ICT Fair – Reforming Manufacture and Minerals Supply Chains through Policy, Finance and Public Procurement’ aims to improve the lives of workers and those impacted along different stages of the Information and Communication Technology supply chain through research, campaigning, capacity building and advocacy.

The University’s School of Social Political Science, in collaboration with the University’s Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability, is carrying out research on labour, community, environmental and legal issues in electronics manufacturing.

This is a collaboration with Swedwatch, CATAPA and CEE Bankwatch Network who are researching similar issues in mining. The team is working to map ICT supply chains, carry out field research in sites of mining and manufacture, and develop recommendation reports and policy briefings, as well as academic papers.

The project builds on the University’s affiliation to Electronics Watch, which carries out worker-based monitoring of ICT factories on behalf of public sector members.

Make ICT Fair Project

Related links

Sustainable Development Goals Index