Purpose: This paper aims to empirically test, in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the external perceptions which hold that a firm that has acted in a socially irresponsible manner can have negative consequences, as an organisation's success and very survival depends, in part, on satisfying normative expectations from its environment. Design/methodology/approach: A purposive sample of 28 respondents was selected from three communities within the region. In addition, 20 in-depth interviews took place with oil workers, community leaders and elders within the region. These interviews lasted for approximately an hour and were transcribed verbatim. Findings: Drawing on qualitative research methodology, it is proposed that socially responsible investment could promote and facilitate business and social cohesion between corporations and broader communities that impinge on the company, rather than simply viewing business practice exclusively from an economic or political point of view. Research limitations/implications: This study has examined a small range of companies from an interpretivist ethnographic position in the Niger Delta region using data collected from interviews and observations. Future research could take a more positivistic position and explore a wider range of companies using a variety of data collection methods. Practical implications: Understanding corporate social responsibility (CSR) tends to be contextually bound, and should be divorced from the mechanistic Western perspective prevailing in most extant literature. Despite this context-specific notion to CSR relevance, there is still an overwhelming dominance of the understanding of CSR from the Western perspective, so companies should more closely consider local issues when drawing up CSR policy guidelines in a non-Western environment. Originality/value: Forty-eight individuals in the Niger Delta region have been interviewed, and their opinions on CSR issues have been reported.