A forest of evidence: third-party certification and multiple forms of proof—a case study of oil palm plantations in Indonesia
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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Volume (Year): 29 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
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