Public and private governance in interaction: Changing interpretations of sovereignty in the field of Sustainable Palm Oil
Since the 1990s, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and businesses have gained prominence as architects of new forms of transnational governance creating Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS). The legitimacy and effectiveness of VSS are dependent on interactions with public authorities and regulation. While studies suggest that the (perceived) gain or loss of sovereignty by a state shapes public-private interactions, we have little understanding on how states use or interpret sovereignty in their interactions with VSS. In this paper, we explore what interpretations of sovereignty are used by states at different ends of global value chains in interactions with VSS. Based on a comparative and longitudinal study of interactions of Indonesian and Dutch state actors with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, we conclude that states strategically use different and changing notions of sovereignty to control the policy and debate regarding sustainable palm oil. When interactions between public and private governance are coordinative in nature, notions of interdependent sovereignty are used. However, when interactions are competitive, domestic and Westphalian notions of sovereignty are used. Our results show conflicting interpretations and usages of sovereignty by different states, which might negatively impact the regulatory capacity within an issue field to address sustainability issues.