Agents of Change: Reflections on a working partnership between BP Azerbaijan and the International Institute for Environment and Development
Between 2005 and 2010, IIED and BP Azerbaijan engaged in an experimental relationship to explore sustainable development issues related to BP’s operations in Azerbaijan.
The relationship was intended to be flexible, exploratory, provocative, and to encourage ‘thinking outside the box’ for both sides. There was a strong focus on learning and building mutual understanding. Individual experiences, inspirational moments and personal development were highly valued. Both organisations also recognised the importance of embedding their experiences and lessons learned within their respective organisations.
Key benefits to BP staff included gaining knowledge, awareness and confidence in sustainable development matters; gaining experience of what happens in other countries; building personal skills and being challenged to think differently.
For IIED, this was an opportunity to be exposed to a different new kind of working environment than the organisation normally works in; to learn about Azerbaijan and about how a big multinational such as BP operates in that context; with the potential possibility of influencing those operations.
Key challenges related to: leadership and institutional ‘buy-in’ of by both organisations; purpose and relevance (to the business) of the activities undertaken; organizational organisational restructuring and budget cuts; the issue question of whether this was a relationship or a consultancy; difficult logistics and communication; and the ability to following up on inspiring moments by incorporating lessons into day-to-day work.