In agricultural commodity value chains, companies with sizeable market shares are stepping up sustainability commitments through so-called “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” (NDPE) policies. But delivering on these commitments is fraught with difficulties.

Oil palm plantation on in Borneo, Malaysia, on newly deforested land. Photo: Vaara / Getty Images

Drawing on theories of hybrid public-private governance this paper explores how commodity value chain actors themselves view the limitations of private regulation and the prospects for more effective supply chain governance.

The paper includes data from interviews with actors along the palm oil commodity value chains linking growers in Riau Province, Sumatra with retailers in Europe. The findings demonstrate that actors see shortcomings in the existing arrangements and feel the need for both the Indonesian state and European governments to be more active in governance.

The paper explores potential hybrid governance measures, highlighting the need for a pluralistic strategy that mobilises the combined positive forces of civil society, business and government(s). The authors argue that, to advance such an agenda, hybrid governance must be conceptualized not simply as a matter of blending (and hence reifying) pre-existing and often highly problematic private and public institutions, but as a question of how all such institutions may themselves be more thoroughly democratized in the process.