The international awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues and the socio‐political context of emerging countries are increasing the pressure on businesses, including multinational corporations, to take another look at their societal role. In a context of state failure (immature institutions), paying taxes can guarantee neither the peaceful management of company operations nor the sustainable development of local communities. Moreover, multinationals have experienced that making resources and opportunities available to local communities is not enough. The Niger Delta in Nigeria is, in this regard, a textbook case that demonstrates the challenge of achieving sustainable development in the context of acute inequalities. This paper seeks to address these issues.
Drawing on fieldwork – quantitative and qualitative surveys – carried out in Nigeria for the past seven years, the paper builds on initiatives and approaches undertaken by Total, Agip and NPDC/Shell, consistent with their understanding of their role in society.
Inequalities and imbalances (income, gender, inter‐regional, sector‐based) ferment frustrations and nurture insecurity and violence in the Niger Delta, therefore hindering sustainable development. As far as the relationship between oil companies and communities is concerned, the authors argue that oil multinationals have to foster an approach that targets the reduction of those exceptional inequalities for which they are partly responsible, as revealed with the “double effect” principle.
Whereas CSR has been so far mainly studied as a management issue, this paper brings broader views and analyzes ethical, cultural and economic dynamics that underlie the acceptability of companies in their environment, in the specific context of the Niger Delta.
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