Private actors are essential partners in the sustainability governance of commodity-supply chains such as palm oil. However, their actual contribution to promoting sustainability is also contested. This article assesses the role of private actors in the governance of the palm oil-supply chain in Thailand by comparing supply-chain actors that are certified with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standards and non-certified supply-chain actors. The comparison entails input supply and production, collection and sales, processing and storage, and distribution. Building on the concept of (global) value chains, we examine the following governance dimensions in our comparison: the management of contracts and agreements, the role of trust in transactions, the relative power of various actors, and the control over smallholder farmers’ access to the market. Primary data were collected in the Surat Thani and Krabi Provinces in southern Thailand. We found that the RSPO-certified palm-oil chain was shorter, more transparent, and that farmers received higher prices than the non-RSPO-certified chains.
- Palm oil
- private actors
- Roundtable on Sustainhable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification
- value chain