Caste and Corporate Responsibility

Business operations in caste-affected countries are at a high risk of being based on the economic...

Photo: Jacob Carlsen

Photo: Jacob Carlsen

Business operations in caste-affected countries are at a high risk of being based on the economic exploitation or seclusion of caste-affected communities and others at the “low” end of the caste hierarchy.

Violations of both national legislation as well as international law, in particular the international labour standards, often occur.

Common examples of caste discrimination in business operations are:

  • Exploitation of workers from caste-affected communities, including the use of children and bonded labourers (debt slaves), working under hazardous conditions for a minimal pay
  • Discrimination in employment practices – applicants from caste-affected communities never considered for skilled jobs
  • Discrimination in the services and utilities offered by an employer, such as housing, health care, and education and training
  • Misappropriation of land belonging or allocated to caste-affected communities

DSN-UK works in partnership with READ (Rights Education and Development Centre) to end bonded labour scheme called Sumangali in Tamil Nadu, India. For more please read here.

How can your company avoid complicity?

If your company is either directly operating in or sourcing from a caste-affected country, your company could be complicit in the discrimination and exploitation of caste affected communities.

Several tools exist to help you assess your business operations and remedy any harm done:

> The Dalit Discrimination Check is a web-tool developed specifically to help companies identify and prevent discrimination and exploitation of Dalits in their Indian operations and suppliers. It is designed as a comprehensive checklist  with self-guided questions and indicators of possible violations of national Indian law and international law. It has been developed by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IDSN and the Danish Institute for Human Rights as part of their Human Rights and Business Project.

> The Ambedkar Principles are developed to assist foreign investors in South Asia. They include a set of employment principles as well as a set of additional principles adressing economic and social exclusion of Dalits.

> ISO 26000 on Caste Discrimination Caste discrimination has now been highlighted by the widely recognised standard – the ISO 26000 on social responsibility.

> Link to report on UK companies

> Caste discrimination and the International Labour Organisation (ILO)

> In doubt whether your company is operating in a caste-affected country?