The ambiguities of Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil certification: internal incoherence, governance rescaling and state transformation

Shofwan Al Banna Choiruzzad, Adam Tyson, Helena Varkkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There are persistent tensions of both a technical and political nature between Southeast Asia’s two major palm oil producers, Indonesia and Malaysia, and the sustainability governance mechanisms shaping global environmental and trade standards emerging from Europe. The establishment of the national Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification standard in 2011 is a sign of discontent with the transnational Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) regime, sparking debate about the legitimacy of private governance models initiated by non-governmental organizations and companies in Europe. This article questions whether the adoption of sustainability norms by Indonesia signals normative convergence or the emergence of rival governance structures that challenge the state. Evidence suggests that elements of norm adoption and rival governance coexist in Indonesia and that ISPO certification is an ambiguous policy with degrees of internal incoherence. The ambiguous nature of ISPO certification gives rise to unresolved disputes over power and authority between various actors. This article shows how these disputes came into being by framing these dynamics as part of a long historical process. Novel insights are gained by employing the state transformation framework and the concept of governance rescaling. Within this framework, we argue that the ambiguous nature of the ISPO results from complex interrelated processes of fragmentation, decentralization and the internationalization of the Indonesian state.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAsia Europe Journal
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Europe
  • Governance rescaling
  • Indonesia
  • State transformation
  • Sustainable palm oil

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