July 15, 2021

Bennett Secures Two Research Fellowships

Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, Joseph M. Ha Associate Professor of International Affairs and Program Director of Political Economy, has been awarded two distinct, competitive fellowships that she will use during her upcoming sabbatical. In addition to being named a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Dr. Bennett has been awarded a $20,000 Beyster Faculty Fellowship by the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing. These fellowships will enable Dr. Bennett to conduct research and begin writing her book manuscript, Bold Claims, Low Wages: Voluntary Sustainability Certifications and Living Wages in Global Supply Chains.

Dr. Bennett’s fellowship at the HKS Carr Center for Human Rights Policy provides “scholars and practitioners the opportunity to spend a semester or year at Harvard conducting research, sharing experiences with students, and exploring critical human rights issues with a distinguished group of peers” through the provision of an office and library access. With financial support of the J. Robert Beyster Faculty fellowship, Dr. Bennett will spend the spring 2022 semester in residency at HKS working on her book. The Harvard Libraries hold archival materials that are highly relevant and unavailable remotely, and, as a resident at HKS, Dr. Bennett will be able to participate in the Center’s activities and engage with other fellows and faculty at the Center. Further, as an Beyster Fellow, Dr. Bennett will have approximately 200 other fellows and mentors available for consultation and cooperation. She plans to add research on employee ownership to her project on living wages and present her work to the SMLR community at the annual Kelso Workshop in 2022.

In general, Dr. Bennett’s research explores the disconnect between voluntary sustainability certifications’ (VSCs) rhetorical commitments to economic justice and their actual practices. VSCs (such as Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance) aim to promote the UN Sustainable Development goals in the context of global supply chains by creating labor and environmental standards and certifying compliance. They are responsible for the “eco-labels” and “fair trade seals” on coffee and chocolate bars and aim to reassure big corporations (such as Nike) that their suppliers are not engaged in human rights violations abroad. VSCs often make claims about promoting living wages for farm and factory workers, but seldom live up to these claims. This will be the first publication to expose and closely examine a decades-long reality of making bold claims while paying low wages. It also examines the missed opportunity to support profit-sharing and worker-ownership—two business models that can promote a more equitable distribution of wealth. Ending on a hopeful note, Dr. Bennett’s book shows how some committed VSCs, such as Fairtrade International, have started to address these shortcomings in recent years through the Global Living Wage Coalition and points to the important role of watchdog organizations like Fair World Project.

More information about Dr. Bennett’s residency at the Carr Center is available here, and more about her previous work and Fair Trade at http://www.elizabethannebennett.com/
Please see also the November 2021 businesswire story, Rutgers Research Fellows to Study How Equity Compensation Builds Wealth for Workers

July 2021/Updated January 2022