Sustainable development co-operation with BP-Azerbaijan
IIED's capacity to deal with energy issues is developing rapidly. Azerbaijan, where the British company BP is the single largest foreign investor, beckoned.
Over 2006-2007, IIED has worked in an innovative sustainable development cooperation agreement with the communications and external affairs team of the petroleum giant BP in Azerbaijan.
The collaboration with BP-Azerbaijan is an experiment to see whether bringing IIED's skills and insights into this kind of team could be mutually beneficial. That is, whether it will help the company's investment in the country to make a positive contribution to sustainable development, and give IIED new opportunities to work towards that goal.
For IIED, the main goal was to use the engagement as an opportunity to foster development of local agendas on business and sustainable development - informed by the wider debate on the role of business in society.
IIED valued working with a foreign investor that wanted to maximise its contribution to sustainable development in a tough environment. And the IIED team also relished the opportunity to work â€˜bottom up' with a major multinational.
We made use of IIED's Business Engagement Principles to frame the working approach to the collaboration as well as the contract on which it is based.
Activities since the start of the cooperation, in March 2006, have been wide-ranging. Alongside two initial scooping visits to Azerbaijan by IIED staff, seven BP-Azerbaijan staff members visited IIED for a workshop in May 2006 to explore a range of key issues in sustainable development.
To date, IIED staff have facilitated two meetings of BP's Regional Sustainable Development Forum, which brings together staff from Turkey and Georgia as well as Azerbaijan. We have run workshops and discussion groups for BP-Azerbaijan staff in Baku.
Alongside a successful one-to-one mentoring programme involving IIED and a number of BP's Azerbaijani staff members, IIED led a successful study tour to South Africa for five BP-Azerbaijan staff, and a knowledge exchange visit to London for the Azerbaijani staff member responsibility for putting together BP-Azerbaijan's sustainability report.
Over 2008, the cooperation agreement will enter a new 12-month phase. We look to build on the flexibility of the relationship, which has successfully created space for innovation.
More BP staff - including from Turkey and Georgia - will enter the mentoring programme. And IIED will work through the Regional Sustainable Development Forum as a facilitator in work on a strategy for community and regional investment in Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Work to find practical ways of integrating environment and social community considerations into BP-Azerbaijan's community investment work will also be a feature of the relationship in this new phase.
Beyond IIED's relationship with BP-Azerbaijan, we are also looking to develop wider links and project-based partnerships with NGOs in Azerbaijan.
For IIED, the main goal was to foster development of local agendas on business and sustainable development - informed by the wider debate on the role of business in society.
Based on a workshop with BP-Azerbaijan staff members, and drawing on IIED's wider work on business and sustainable development more generally, this report sets out a framework for defining appropriate 'boundaries' for business action that intersects with public policy.