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A forest of evidence: third-party certification and multiple forms of proof—a case study of oil palm plantations in Indonesia

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  • Laura Silva-Castañeda

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    Abstract

    In recent years, new forms of transnational regulation have emerged, filling the void created by the failure of governments and international institutions to effectively regulate transnational corporations. Among the variety of initiatives addressing social and environmental problems, a growing number of certification systems have appeared in various sectors, particularly agrifood. Most initiatives rely on independent third-party certification to verify compliance with a standard, as it is seen as the most credible route for certification. The effects of third-party audits, however, still need to be empirically investigated. This article provides a critical assessment of the notion of ‘evidence’ which is at the heart of auditing practices. It focuses on the case of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and fieldwork carried out in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil. In this country, some non-governmental organizations decided to participate in the RSPO in order to use this platform to tackle the issue of land conflicts. They managed to include important clauses regarding indigenous and land rights in the RSPO standard. In practice, however, auditors rarely recognize as valid evidence the forms of proof put forward by local communities. As a result, the whole process risks compounding local power imbalances. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10460-012-9358-x
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 361-370

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:29:y:2012:i:3:p:361-370

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    Web page: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/10460

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    Related research

    Keywords: Certification; Indonesia; Land tenure; Palm oil; Proof; Sustainable development;

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    1. Hatanaka, Maki & Bain, Carmen & Busch, Lawrence, 2005. "Third-party certification in the global agrifood system," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 354-369, June.
    2. Laura Raynolds & Douglas Murray & Andrew Heller, 2007. "Regulating sustainability in the coffee sector: A comparative analysis of third-party environmental and social certification initiatives," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 147-163, June.
    3. Lena Partzsch, 2011. "The legitimacy of biofuel certification," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 413-425, September.
    4. Doris Fuchs & Agni Kalfagianni & Tetty Havinga, 2011. "Actors in private food governance: the legitimacy of retail standards and multistakeholder initiatives with civil society participation," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 353-367, September.
    5. Pentland, Brian T., 2000. "Will auditors take over the world? Program, technique and the verification of everything," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 307-312, April.
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