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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 73-85

The strategies and effectiveness of conservation ngos in the global voluntary standards: The case of the roundtable on sustainable palm-oil

1 Centre d'Étude et de Recherche Travail, Pouvoir (CERTOP), Université Toulouse, France
2 Institut National de Recherche en Sciences et Technologies Pour l'Environnement et l'Agriculture (IRSTEA), Bordeaux, France

Correspondence Address:
Denis Ruysschaert
Centre d'Étude et de Recherche Travail, Pouvoir (CERTOP), Université Toulouse
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.186332

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Conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and firms have been promoting global voluntary standards, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), to produce environmentally responsible goods in tropical countries. This research seeks to understand the strategies and the effectiveness of conservation NGOs with respect to the RSPO. Our research documents that the conservation NGOs, when engaging with the RSPO, may be divided into four categories based on the type of resources mobilised and the conservation goals: 1) 'Collaborative NGOs' seek to change the system from within by providing scientific research-based information, by holding strategic positions and by creating rules; 2) 'Opponent' remains outside the RSPO while using it as a platform for public campaigns; 3) 'Opportunistic' focuses on conserving geographical areas by adopting either collaborative or opponent strategies to reach their goals; and 4) 'Sceptic' supports communities to secure local land rights. These NGOs have implemented strategies that strengthened RSPO's institution. However, the institutionalisation of the RSPO prevents the NGOs from reaching their goals for three reasons: 1) individual NGOs cannot change strategy; 2) NGOs using different engagement strategies are unable to collaborate; and 3) the sceptic NGOs are structurally excluded from the RSPO, though local land rights are a fundamental matter of concern for biodiversity conservation. NGOs would be more effective in reaching their goals either by focussing on their initial conservation objectives or by strategically collaborating with each other outside the structures of the RSPO.

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