April 22, 2008

Launch of Company Research Report

Another Apartheid? Caste Discrimination and UK Companies

On Tuesday 22 April 2008, DSNUK launched the report Another Apartheid? Caste Discrimination and UK Companies at Portcullis House in London.

International companies are rapidly expanding into South Asia without addressing, or even demonstrating awareness of, the systemic violation of human rights that is caste discrimination. This report examines eight companies operating in different sectors including banking, oil, textiles and food. It demonstrates that whilst they all offer paper commitments to diversity and anti-discrimination policy, very few are willing to be country-specific in their actions. The Dalit Solidarity Network is challenging UK companies who claim to have an ethical approach to put in place positive policies to address the exclusion and abuse faced by Dalits. The recommendations at the end of the report emphasise the importance of caste awareness and monitoring in all parts of a company's activities and encourage companies to take steps to address the issue in their employment, corporate responsibility and (in the case of banks) lending policies.

This event was well attended by representatives of UK companies, NGOs and parliamentarians. Rob Marris MP gave a brief overview of the report. This was followed by a presentation by Michael Thevar, President of TempSolutions Inc, on "Dalits, Economic rights and access to private sector organisations - Why changes need to happen". Dan Rees, Director of the Ethical Trading Initiative, then spoke on "Engaging with companies to effect change" and finally Malini Thedani, Head of Corporate Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, HSBC India, gave a presentation on "The role of international companies in affirmative action and corporate social responsibility". Following these interesting and informative presentations, participants engaged in a lively question and answer session, chaired by DSNUK trustee Rodney Bickerstaffe.

A DSN-UK press release relating to the launch of this report is available here.

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - May 22, 2008