One small word , in the new EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), has the potential to make a giant leap of difference to millions of workers suffering human rights abuses in global supply chains. The focus on anti-discrimination and the inclusion of the word caste, in the recitals of the just adopted CSDDD, underscores that EU businesses , and those based outside the EU but with significant presence in the Member states, must ensure they are addressing caste discrimination, and the situation of Dalits in their supply chains, in order to live up to the new legislation. This is a crucial inclusion for millions of Dalits abused or discriminated against in supply chains and working in forced labour, child labour or under hazardous conditions.

Caste discrimination is a root cause of abuse and exploitation. Studies have found that over 85% of bonded labourers in the world are in South Asian countries affected by caste discrimination. According to Anti-Slavery International over 80% of bonded labourers in India, Pakistan and Nepal are Dalits (lowest caste) or Adivasis (indigenous).

In addition to forced and bonded labour, Dalits face child labour, hazardous work, below living wages, employment discrimination, sexual abuse and violence and many other serious human rights violations in their work connected to global supply chains. Therefore, if you are engaged in human rights due diligence with supply chains in South Asia, addressing caste in your supply chains is a very good place to start.

Caste discrimination and the exploitation of Dalit workers is present in multiple sectors including garments, leather, natural stone and minerals, agriculture, construction, carpet weaving and many others.

IDSN welcomes the new legislation and strongly encourages companies to stay in countries affected by caste discrimination such as Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, and engage with their suppliers to ensure that caste discrimination does not lead to human rights abuses, labour exploitation and adverse effects on the communities.

We highly recommend taking a look at The Ethical Trading Initiative’s Base Code Guidance on “Caste in Global Supply Chains” to start to learn and develop actions to address the many human rights and labour abuses directly linked to caste in global supply chains.

It is high time this issue is properly addressed, and we hope that the new legislation will be a catalyst for action.