The public and private regime complex for governing palm oil supply: what scope for building connections and enhancing complementarities?

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Key messages

  • The global palm oil value chain has grown in complexity over time as have the public and private regulations governing the sector. This influences stakeholder decisions along the palm oil supply chain and the territories where it is produced.
  • Weak alignment between the many regulatory initiatives has given rise to a 'transnational regime complex' that is struggling to resolve effectively many structural performance issues that have long plagued the palm oil sector.
  • Key performance issues facing the palm oil sector relate to pervasive land conflict and informality, yield differences between companies and smallholders, and a high carbon debt linked to emissions arising from deforestation and peatlands conversion.
  • Different disconnects, complementarities and antagonisms characterize current governance. Building connections and enhancing complementarities are important ways to gradually reduce antagonisms.
  • Complementarities have emerged among instruments with global reach, whereas disconnects persist especially within public regulations, between regulations and private standards, and between standards operating across different territorial scales.
  • Several connections can be built by better linking existing regulations, and public regulations and private standards at different levels. These could arise by embracing approaches that look at both supply chain and territorial management.
  • The main policy targets to achieve sustainability and inclusivity are: 1) limiting the expansion of palm oil in high-carbon forests and peatlands; 2) adopting mechanisms to enhance transparency and accountabilities; 3) creating conditional incentives to intensify palm oil supply, mainly of smallholder farmers; 4) adopting new approaches to facilitate the upgrade of smallholder production systems; and 5) legalizing tenure claims under different types of rights recognition schemes.


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