Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in developing regions such as Africa is often presented and subtly discussed as a form of corporate heroism, which is largely dependent on managerial private morality. Whilst acknowledging the potency of private morality, the conditions that enable and or constrain its utility in different institutional contexts are often taken for granted. Drawing from a study of managerial responses to trade unionism and employee relations in the Nigerian banking sector, we highlight the weakness of relying on managerial private morality to foster employees’ right to freedom of association in weak institutional contexts, and conclude that strong legal institutions and enabling socio-political environments are necessary for the proper functioning of CSR, as a form of private morality.