The Oil Palm Governance: Challenges of Sustainability Policy in Indonesia

Eka Intan Kumala Putri*, Arya Hadi Dharmawan, Otto Hospes, Bayu Eka Yulian, Rizka Amalia, Dyah Ita Mardiyaningsih, Rilus A. Kinseng, Fredian Tonny, Eusebius Pantja Pramudya, Faris Rahmadian, Diah Y. Suradiredja

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Nowadays, Indonesian palm oil faces agrarian, environmental, and social issues and has been subject to sharp criticism from the international community for many years. To answer this problem, the Indonesian government implemented a strategy through certification which ensured the achievement of sustainability standards, especially on the upstream side of the palm oil supply chain. The implementation of Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) was an ultimate instrument that applied in particular to smallholders oriented towards managing land legal issues, plantation business licenses, plant seeds, and environmental management and to farmer organizations at the local level. However, this process faced quite complex challenges in the form of structural barriers that are very constraining. This study revealed the occurrence of the phenomenon of hollow governance when regulations are absent or collide with each other. The study also revealed institutional power and multi-level governance that made the governance process ineffective or counterproductive. With a qualitative approach to research conducted in three important palm oil provinces of Indonesia, this article aims to look at the issues of oil palm governance a bit more comprehensively. The study conceptualized what was referred to as low-functioning governance to describe how weak the institutions, organizations, actors, and resources are that support ISPO implementation, especially at the regional and local levels. This paper suggests improving and strengthening the ISPO oil palm governance if Indonesian palm oil companies and smallholders want to gain better credibility on sustainability abroad.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1820
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Certification
  • Governance
  • ISPO
  • Smallholders
  • Sustainability policy


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