"Sustaining Plantations and Certifying Inequalities: Towards A Decolonial Critique of Sustainable Palm Oil Certifications in Indonesia."

von Hariati Sinaga
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Working Paper 17

Sustaining Plantations and Certifying Inequalities: Towards A Decolonial Critique of Sustainable Palm Oil Certifications in Indonesia [pdf, 427 kb]. (Englisch)

von Hariati Sinaga

The adverse effects of oil palm development on the environment have put pressures on actors in palm oil industry to ensure the production of sustainable palm oil. The emergence of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) serves as a response to the pressures. While receiving criticisms, the RSPO certification has also been followed by the rise in an “alternative” sustainable palm oil certification scheme, such as the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO). The Indonesian government introduces the ISPO certification as the RSPO is deemed as a neo-colonialist tool. Contention to the certification mechanisms have mainly focused either on the “greenwashing” or the lack of inclusivity of the certification mechanisms. Drawing on insights from the decolonial approach, this paper sketches a critique that goes beyond the North-South binary and places socioecological relations at the centre of the analysis. Additionally, informed by the domestication literature, this paper conceptualises “sustainability certifications as domestication”, arguing that the RSPO and ISPO certifications serve as resource making that reproduces inequalities. As such, this paper also contends that the ISPO is not an alternative sustainable governance despite claiming to be one. Additionally, the paper also seeks to draw lessons from the socioecological relations of palm oil production originating in Central and West Africa.