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A developmental paradox? The “dark forces” against corporate social responsibility in Ghana’s extractive industry


In order to reduce environmental degradation and contribute more to wider sustainable development efforts, mining and oil companies in Ghana undertake different projects in affected communities, such as building schools and providing scholarships, as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). Yet, evidence from recent studies suggests that the outcomes of these practices are mixed in terms of improving the livelihoods of people. This situation raises the question: what account for the disparity between companies’ CSR activities and perceptions of affected communities? Drawing upon interview data with stakeholders from the mining and oil sectors of Ghana, the paper explores the perceived factors that undermine the contribution of CSR toward developmental efforts in affected communities. The results show that misplaced priorities and duplication of projects on the part of companies, high expectations from affected communities, and inadequate involvement of beneficiaries are among the factors that undermine CSR in Ghana. These findings contribute to extant literature that underscore the dichotomy between CSR and development.

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  1. 1.

    Participants of mining and oil companies covered different officials including environment, health and safety officers, community development officers, and public relations officers. Those from government comprised mainly public servants in agencies overseeing the natural resources sector in Ghana such as the Public Interest Accountability Committee, Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Petroleum Commission, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resource, Minerals Commission and Ministry of Petroleum among others. Those from academia were Ghanaian scholars based in both Ghana and abroad, particularly those with expertise on the extractive industry, selected based on both their availability to participate and their relevant publications on mining and the oil and gas sectors.

  2. 2.

    Note that the data we draw upon here does not include the initial 22 community members that participated in a pilot study that occurred in January 2013 as a precursor to the subsequent in-depth field research. The purpose of the pilot study was to provide an initial entry into the communities to be studied, establish connections, and facilitate the recruitment of participants.

  3. 3.

    See Accessed 26 June 2016.


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Due acknowledgement goes to the University of Ghana Business School for funding this study. We are also thankful to our participants for providing data for this study. Our gratitude goes to the Organizing Committee of the 14th Development Dialogue Conference (International Institute of Social Studies of the Erasmus University Rotterdam) for providing the platform for presenting this paper. We are particularly thankful to Professor Ben White of ISS for providing very useful comments when the paper was presented at the 14th DD conference in The Hague. Additionally, we thank Dr Sandy Zook of the University of Colorado Denver for her insightful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Last, we thank the two reviewers of this journal for their critical comments that helped us improve the paper.

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Correspondence to Alex Osei-Kojo.

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Osei-Kojo, A., Andrews, N. A developmental paradox? The “dark forces” against corporate social responsibility in Ghana’s extractive industry. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 1051–1071 (2020).

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  • CSR
  • Mining
  • Oil extraction
  • Development
  • Communities
  • Ghana