The power of the consumer boycott is turning some major corporations into unlikely champions of a new form of political bargaining.Not so long ago, eating a biscuit or chocolate bar, or applying lipstick, meant, in all likelihood, that you were helping to deforest entire tropical landscapes. Today, just as unwittingly, you may instead be helping to drive a social and political revolution that is redefining the rules of international corporate behaviour and even giving democracy a passing fillip.At the centre of what was an emerging environmental crisis and has now become a benchmark for people power, is palm oil.It sounds innocuous enough but this simple agricultural product, mostly from South-East Asia, has become the focal point for a new tier of global governance, or rule making. Palm oil continues to catch nation states by surprise with its capacity to break through political inertia or corporate intransigence by harnessing – or threatening to harness – the power of the world’s consumers.It is a phenomenon still running its course and an enthralling spectacle for political scientist Associate Professor Helen Nesadurai from the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Monash University’s Sunway campus, near Kuala Lumpur.

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