Sustainable UCL


UCL retains Fairtrade Award

21 July 2022

Sustainable UCL, the Students’ Union UCL and UCL’s caterer CH&CO joined forces to ensure the use of Fairtrade products on campus retaining the institution’s Fairtrade accreditation.

Coffee beans

What is the Fairtrade award?

The Fairtrade Award is jointly delivered by the Fairtrade Foundation and Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK) and gives recognition to institutions that have embedded ethical and sustainable practices through their curriculum, procurement, research and campaigns.  

What action has UCL taken to retain the award?

At UCL, we have been marking Fairtrade Fortnight for nearly a decade, building on our work as a Fairtrade university. In spring 2022, we hosted our biennial NUS Fairtrade audit. Three UCL students audited UCL and Students’ Union UCL efforts to supply Fairtrade products on campus and to engage the wider community on ethical supply chains.

Sustainable UCL, Students’ Union UCL and UCL’s caterer, CH&CO also completed a Fairtrade workbook covering 56 criteria. We achieved around 60% of available scoring, performing strongly in leadership, strategy, procurement, retail, and catering. These are the core areas of Fairtrade compliance and thus, we are pleased to retain our 1-star Fairtrade award for the university.

Joanna Socha, Students’ Union UCL:

As surveys with students and the history of pro-Fairtrade policies at the Students’ Union UCL show, fair wages and ethical trade have been important to our student community. That is why, in line with our commitments to sustainability and ethical procurement and our charitable purpose, all Union cafes make good value Fairtrade products available as a standard for students on campus, including the ever-best-selling Fairtrade coffee. Apart from helping us live up to our students’ values, the framework of the Fairtrade University certification has also reinforced the collaboration with UCL, as the partnership is key to achieving the Fairtrade status.

Rosie Rayner-Law, CH&CO:

Sourcing Fairtrade products isn’t without its challenges. Over the past few years many chocolate producers such as Cadburys and Nestle have moved away from the Fairtrade accreditation, choosing to create their own in-house verification schemes. Although these do have some merit, the standards they require are lesser than Fairtrade’s thorough audit process that guarantees cocoa farmers above market-rate payments for their goods.

Next steps:

In the future, Sustainable UCL, Students’ Union UCL and CH&CO want to focus on developing a more holistic approach to ethical consumption and sustainable food. Whilst we want to maintain and improve upon our Fairtrade scoring over the next year, we also want to reduce single-use plastics in our catering, keep sourcing sustainable sea food and encouraging other initiatives such as Powered by Plants. Over the next year we plan to expand our Sustainable Food working group meetings and push on with this vitally important area of sustainability.

Fairtrade products to watch out for on campus:

  • Look out for coffee from Union and The Roasting Party and the Real Coffee Company on campus. These coffee suppliers work under a ‘direct trade’ model. This is when coffee roasters have direct relationships with farmers; it cuts out the intermediaries meaning the farmers get a better deal, and the roasters can guarantee traceability and quality of their products. Although not a replacement for Fairtrade, it is another way to tell if you’re purchasing an ethical product.
  • For your fair cocoa fix, look out for Tony’s Chocolonely and Divine sold in UCL outlets

Authors: Joanna Socha (Students’ Union UCL), Rosie Rayner-Law (CH&CO), Evan Landy (Sustainable UCL)

Editor: Chiara Morfeo (Sustainable UCL)