Abstract

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.

Research Highlights

  • Understanding legitimization of private governance requires a multi-dimensional approach.
  • These dimensions include: legality, moral justifications, and consent/acceptance.
  • This is applied to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
  • Tensions and trade-offs are revealed in the different ways in which the RSPO can create legitimacy.

Keywords:

Private governance; Legitimacy; Roundtables; Multi-stakeholder; Palm oil; NSMD governance