Creating legitimacy in global private governance: The case of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

Greetje Schouten*, Pieter Glasbergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

251 Citations (Scopus)


This article suggests that understanding legitimization processes of private governance initiatives requires a multi-dimensional approach. This suggestion has been operationalized in three aspects that can be used to better understand such processes: legality, moral justifications, and consent/acceptance. These aspects are based on different theoretical traditions and are applied in an analysis of the process of creating legitimacy of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This empirical research reveals the characteristics of the legitimization process of the RSPO and shows the value of a multi-dimensional approach. The three perspectives complement each other and deepen our insights in legitimization processes by revealing tensions and trade-offs in the different ways in which non-state market driven governance arrangements can create legitimacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1891-1899
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Governments also play another important role: part of the RSPO's work is funded by governments. For example, the Task Force for Smallholder Certification Support Network could commence its work due to the funding received from the Dutch government's Sustainable Trade Initiative. The ‘framework for drafting criteria for sustainable palm oil’ was funded with money from GTZ, a German development cooperation organization under the German federal government. The Malaysian government pledged about 15 million dollars to help smallholders move towards sustainable practices.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Pieter Leroy, Mariëtte van Huijstee, Verena Bitzer, Jordan Nikoloyuk, Luli Pesqueira, Philipp Pattberg, Aarti Gupta, Frank Biermann and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this article. We would also like to acknowledge the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for funding this research.


Dive into the research topics of 'Creating legitimacy in global private governance: The case of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this