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Helen E.S. Nesadurai

This chapter examines transnational private governance in the palm oil sector, a multi-billion dollar global industry controversial for its role in deforestation, global warming, as well as conflicts over land and labour. However, failure of its principle producer governments in Malaysia and Indonesia to address these adverse impacts led NGOs and consumer goods manufacturers to establish private standards to govern the behaviour of palm oil firms. The analysis shows how private environmental and social standards relied on the market to drive change in the behaviour of the very same palm oil plantation corporations responsible in the past for unsustainable production practices, protected as they were by their cosy patron–client relations with state actors. The chapter thus speaks to broader debates in global governance concerning the conditions under which new forms of environmental and social regulation become embedded in local contexts characterised by deeply entrenched local power relations favouring more profitable extractive forms of economic activity.