In attempts to improve the efficiency of development efforts over the past few decades private sector participation in the delivery of basic services has been promoted to a varying extent. Roughly in tandem with this, there has been movement to increase the accountability of corporations, particularly transnational corporations (TNCs), for human rights violations. Rather than engaging directly in the legal debate about the applicability of human rights standards to corporate activity, this article essentially looks at the issue from the inside out through the collection of empirical evidence. By focusing on the emergent right to water as a case-study, it examines how TNCs engaged in water service delivery in the development context understand and use the language of rights. In doing so, it discusses how current engagement by the TNCs with human rights language may influence proposed corporate human rights accountability frameworks and current attempts to close the globalisation governance gap.