Global sustainability agenda and institutional change: power relations, historical institutionalism, and discourse analysis in the Indonesian palm oil sector

Annisa Joviani Astari

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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The concept of sustainability has become a global agenda penetrating from global institutions to diverse forms of domestic policy making. This dissertation focuses on how, and to what extent, the global sustainability agenda and the actors involved influence domestic policy change. The Indonesian palm oil sector, particularly the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) policy, provided the case study for the research. Three independent studies were conducted using multiple data collection strategies with both qualitative and quantitative approaches. The first study examines power relations amongst stakeholders in the Indonesian the palm oil sector supply chain. The second study investigates historical development of the institutions that lead towards a vision of sustainability for governing the Indonesian palm oil sector. The third study, uses discourse analysis to explore the main factors that trigger initiation of the new ISPO policy under the influence of transnational negotiations.
The research revealed that international stakeholders have tried to exert influence on the national sustainability agenda in the Indonesian palm oil sector, using power held at the global level. However, institutional change in the Indonesian palm oil sector resulted from power contestation within the government’s national coalitions and occurred as a form of sovereignty. The findings reveal that institutional change was not mainly a response to exogenous influence from global institutions, but resulted from the interplay of endogenous factors that changed the perspectives of national actors. The state, nevertheless, is undergoing a transformation and is enhancing national institutional capacity through the publication of the ISPO policy instead of being ‘hollowed-out’ by the rise of transnational actors operating at the global level.
The dissertation presents novel insights on the interaction between globalization and domestic policy making. From a theoretical perspective, new insights contribute to knowledge of the links between institutions, sustainability, globalization and the processes of domestic policy change. From the practical perspective, the research results can help the palm oil sector stakeholders understand power relations between actors; development of institutions contributing to the national sustainability vision; and components of the discourses on the ISPO and oil palm sector that need to be focused to enhance sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Bressers, Hans T.A., Supervisor
  • Lovett, Jon C., Co-Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date19 Jun 2019
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-4779-6
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2019


  • Globalisation
  • Institutional change
  • Power relationships
  • Historical institutionalism
  • Discourse analysis
  • Palm oil
  • Indonesia


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