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Sustainable palm oil as a public responsibility? On the governance capacity of Indonesian standard for sustainable palm oil (ISPO)

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This paper is motivated by the observation that Southern governments start to take responsibility for a more sustainable production of agricultural commodities as a response to earlier private initiatives by businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Indonesia is one of the leading countries in this respect, with new public sustainability regulations on coffee, cocoa and palm oil. Based on the concept of governance capacity, the paper develops an evaluation tool to answer the question whether the new public regulation on sustainable palm oil (ISPO) may become a viable alternative to private regulation. ISPO embraces a tremendous governance challenge as thousands of companies and millions of smallholder farmers are expected to participate. It is concluded that, although ISPO has initiated a process of change, it has not yet developed its full potential. The main reason regards ISPO’s rather loose problem definition, weak authority of the implementing organization, and the fact that the reliability of ISPO is still too low to convince (parts) of the global market. ISPO may therefore face difficulties in meeting its own targets and solving palm-oil related problems, such as deforestation, biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and social conflicts between big plantations and local communities. The main governance challenge regards combining a more authoritative implementation mechanism with a convincing balance between sustainability objectives and economic interests of the sector.

    Research areas

  • Governance capacity, Palm oil, ISPO, Public certification, Sustainability standards, VALUE CHAINS, ROUND-TABLE, DECENTRALIZATION, PLANTATIONS, PART
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-242
Number of pages20
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018