Sustainable development co-operation with BP-Azerbaijan

IIED worked in Azerbaijan in an innovative sustainable development co-operation agreement with the communications and external affairs team for BP – the single largest foreign investor in the country.

2006 - 2009
Frances Reynolds

Group manager, Human Settlements research group

IIED's capacity to work on energy issues developed rapidly in Azerbaijan, where the British company BP was the single largest foreign investor.

In 2006 and 2007, IIED worked in an innovative sustainable development co-operation agreement with the communications and external affairs team of the petroleum giant BP in Azerbaijan. 

The collaboration with BP-Azerbaijan was an experiment to see whether bringing IIED's skills and insights into this kind of team could be mutually beneficial. Would it help the company's investment in the country be a positive contribution to sustainable development, and give IIED new opportunities to work towards that goal.

The main objective was to use the engagement as an opportunity to foster the development of local agendas on business and sustainable development – informed by the wider debate on the role of business in society. Beyond the relationship with BP-Azerbaijan, IIED also hoped to develop wider links and project-based partnerships with NGOs in Azerbaijan.

What did IIED do?

  • Alongside two initial scoping 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.
  • IIED staff facilitated meetings of BP's Regional Sustainable Development Forum, which brought together staff from Turkey and Georgia as well as Azerbaijan. They also ran workshops with BP staff to address macro-level sustainable development issues.
  • A successful one-to-one mentoring programme paired up IIED and BP staff, to explore sustainable development issues encountered by the BP mentee.
  • IIED arranged a study tour to South Africa for BP Azerbaijan staff to explore sustainable development issues in a different context.
  • A member of BP Azerbaijan’s sustainability reporting team visited London on a knowledge exchange visit to explore best practice in sustainability reporting by businesses and NGOs.

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 'bottom up' with a major multinational.

They used IIED's 'Guidelines on business engagement' to frame the working approach to the collaboration as well as the contract on which it was based.