Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Fair trade

We have participated in the Fairtrade University scheme since 2004, making commitments to fair trade procurement, awareness-raising and research. The University is now working towards its next award.

fairtrade award

The University continues to maintain its longstanding commitment to fair trade and develop its approach to ethical supply chains. 

Students: get involved with Fairtrade Fortnight

What the University is doing

The University is committed to continued promotion and understanding of fair trade. 

Supporting the International Fair Trade Charter

We recognise and support the International Fair Trade Charter launched in September 2018 by the World Fair Trade Organisation and Fairtrade International. Supporters of the charter share a vision of a world in which everyone, through their work, can maintain a decent and dignified livelihood and develop their full human potential.

Find out more about the International Fair Trade Charter

Our Fair Trade policy

Our commitment to fair trade means that whenever possible we aim to buy products that are produced fairly and ethically and support on-going academic research and development in this area.


Fairtrade University and College Award

The University took part in a 2017/18 pilot of a new Fairtrade University and Colleges Award, led by the Fairtrade Foundation and SOS UK. We received a "two-star Fairtrade University Award" in recognition of our continued promotion of fair trade products and principles. This award was valid through May 2020. Due to Covid-19 pandemic, we applied for an extension, which is valid to February 2022. We are now preparing to submit for reaccreditation. 

Our actions

Here are some of the things we are doing to promote fair trade:

  • University and Students' Association catering outlets and shops continue to expand their range of fair trade options, including many Fairtrade labelled products, as well as others such as Malawian rice from Just Trading Scotland
  • We raise awareness of fair trade issues during Fairtrade Fortnight each year
  • We are members of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum and Edinburgh Fair Trade City Group
  • University staff, Students Association colleagues and elected student representatives are meeting regularly to collaborate on our Fairtrade University and College Award submission and identify new improvements
  • Undertake research with staff and students to understand how to improve fairtrade and ethical purchasing at the University

Further details of these actions can be found in the 2020-21 Fairtrade Award update.


Specific details of actions taken by the Fair Trade Working Group as part of the Fairtrade University and College Award can be found in our progress report. This document is regularly updated in the lead up to our submission. 


In 2021, the Department of Social Responsibiltiy and Sustainability conducted a survey with Staff and Students to explore how to improve Fairtrade and Ethical purchasing that the University. Recommendations from this survey included:

  1. Improve knowledge of Fairtrade, with a focus on the range of issues that Fairtrade looks to address (including environmental and social elements)
  2. Increase awareness of the locations that Fairtrade items are stocked at the University, and which items are Fairtrade within these locations
  3. Increase awareness of range of Fairtrade items available, even when not stocked at the University (e.g. flowers, gold and jewellery) 
  4. Encourage inclusion of Fairtrade items in new locations such as vending machines on campus, noting that these may be managed by external companies and so the University may have limited influence in the short term (potentially this will be possible during the procurement of these services) 
  5. Evaluate wider range of accreditations and compare to Fairtrade, to establish whether the University should include additional sustainability accreditations within purchasing as standard, in particular for items where Fairtrade accreditation is not applicable.


The full report from this survey is available below.


Find out more about the University's fair trade products and initiatives below

Tony's Chocolonely

Tony's mission: 100% slave-free chocolate
Tony's Chocolonely is a brand of chocolate who are working to make 100% slave-free the norm.

Fairtrade bananas and apple juice

Fairtrade Fortnight 6 word story for fruit - '‘Cheap bananas: who pays the price?’'
All bananas at the University are Fairtrade from Panama

Hot beverages

Fairtrade Fortnight 6 word story for beverages - 'Your morning cuppa: infused with fairness'
In 2018/19, we served almost 2.9 million cups of Fairtrade coffee, 613,384 cups of Fairtrade hot chocolate and 671,361 cups of Fairtrade tea


Fairtrade Fortnight 6 word story for electronics - 'offer: long hours, no pay, permanent'
The University became a founding member of Electronics Watch in 2014, an EU-wide initiative which supports public buyers in calling for fair working conditions in electronics manufacturing

Rice from Malawi

Fairtrade Fortnight 6 word story for rice - ‘Fairly priced rice: school fees paid’
All rice served at the University is sourced from smallholder farmers in Malawi through Just Trading Scotland, a Scottish fair trade distributor.