Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Modern slavery

In 2016, the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) came into force. It 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.

Chains attached to price tags with barcode

The University recognises there are risks of modern slavery in particular in the supply chains of the goods and services we buy. A number of staff are working to further develop our approach to combating these risks.

Read the Modern Slavery Statement

What is modern slavery?

According to the UK Modern Slavery Act, modern slavery encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking.

Examples of these offences include, but are not limited, to labour exploitation, domestic servitude, forced criminality and sexual exploitation. In each case, victims may be moved (trafficked) within or between countries for the purpose of exploitation. The common factor is that a victim is used for someone else’s gain, without respect for their human rights. Modern slavery exists in every country in the world, and victims of human trafficking and exploitation have been found in all areas of Scotland.

Take the Modern Slavery staff training

Take the Modern Slavery student training

What action is the University taking?

We are committed to protecting and respecting human rights and have a zero-tolerance approach to slavery and human trafficking in all its forms. We will act ethically and with integrity in all our relationships, and use all reasonable endeavours to enforce effective systems and controls to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in our supply chains.

The University of Edinburgh’s Modern Slavery Working Group was formed in 2016 in response to the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) reporting requirements. It is made up of representatives from diverse units across the University and is coordinated by the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability.

The group currently meets three times a year and is responsible for identifying steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of modern slavery in the University’s sphere of influence, implementing the steps identified, and reporting on progress. The group’s activities include monitoring the inclusion of modern slavery requirements in different aspects of University operations, promoting staff training on modern slavery, and developing proposals for research collaborations.

Modern Slavery Statements are drafted in August each year by the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability, drawing on evidence gathered by the working group. The statements are 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.

The University's Modern Slavery Statement details what steps we already take to combat modern slavery and our relevant policies and procedures. It also includes an action plan to ensure a sustained focus on this issue.

A research report on modern slavery and universities has been produced for the sector, and is available to download:


We will act ethically and with integrity in all our relationships, and use all reasonable endeavours to take action directly and within our sphere of influence to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place.

Modern slavery statement
Modern slavery statement sphere of influence graphic: global, local and campus influences

Anti-Slavery Policy

The University's Anti-Slavery Policy was approved in September 2021. Further details, including a copy of the policy, can be found on the Procurement website

Where can I find out more?