Having served as a local government councillor in Mayaro (Trinidad and Tobago) for 14 years, Matthew Pierre is clear that listening to and understanding your community is key to sustainable development
“Home is where one starts from,” according to T. S. Eliot, and these words capture my bond with the seaside community of Mayaro in Trinidad and Tobago. My community nurtured me, and I was able to represent my country as a national basketball player and later, I served Mayaro as a local government councillor.
As councillor, I gained an intimate understanding of our socioeconomic needs and utilised the resources at my disposal to facilitate advancement. This included advocating for the construction of the Mayaro Youth indoor facility , the local fire and police stations as well as drainage and roads.
Apart from infrastructure, I knew there was a great need for sustainable development through education and employment. To drive this, we worked to convince bp to invest in a scholarship programme and a micro-enterprise loan facility.
At the end of my 14-year term as councillor, it was grand symmetry that saw me become a bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT) employee – allowing me to continue growing these and other sustainability-driven initiatives.
With bp’s re-energised purpose to ‘reimagine energy for people and our planet’, there are new aims that span from climate to society itself. Of the 20 aims identified, aim 13 is to support the communities where we work to help people build sustainable livelihoods and resilience – this aligns with my lifelong focus.
Sustainability is at the heart of our relationship with Mayaro as exemplified through two signature programmes – the Mayaro Initiative for Private Enterprise Development (MIPED) and Brighter Prospects. These programmes have harnessed local potential and channelled it into dynamic evolution.
In terms of the new focus, sustainability isn’t only one of the aims, it forms the very foundation of the strategy itself. The Mayaro experience has illuminated some noteworthy approaches that aided the endurance of our investments.
Firstly, we listened to the community – gaining an understanding of the traditions, customs, and norms that define socioeconomic and cultural identity. This is demonstrated in MIPED, which created a pathway to success for local businesses through access to funding.
Another approach is understanding the sustainable resources that can be targeted to stimulate development. For Mayaro, its human resource had the potential, but not the impetus, to unearth and reimagine its energy. By removing the barrier of higher education costs, Brighter Prospects unlocked Mayaro’s latent potential.
These programmes show that sustainability and resilience are part of the genetic makeup of a community. Attaining this knowledge created tools that were used for self-sustaining development.
As the country’s first privately developed micro-finance lending organisation, bpTT started MIPED in 2002 with a seed fund of TT$7 million (approx. US$1 million) and provided loans, training and guidance to entrepreneurs who had limited or no access to credit.
In 2018, MIPED achieved the milestone of TT$100 million in loans dispersed and of June 2021, this figure stood at TT$122 million. Amounting to over 5,800 loans, we have funded hundreds of businesses that created thousands of jobs and fostered a better quality of life.
MIPED’s success came mainly through investment in the traditional economy, which includes fishing and farming. With access to funding, these entrepreneurs were finally able to invest in factors required for long-term viability. Aiding sustainability was inter-generational succession, with MIPED encouraging second and third generation investment in some businesses.
Access to funding also allowed entrepreneurs to take advantage of novel opportunities. A key example of this has been MIPED funding the growth of food catering services which now supply domestic and corporate needs.
Started in 2003, Brighter Prospects provides financial assistance to students from Mayaro – supporting more than 700 A-level and 600 tertiary level students since inception, and bpTT provides additional support such as academic guidance, motivation and internship placements.
The community also derives added benefit – one of the requirements of Brighter Prospects is that recipients must volunteer toward local development, ranging from tutoring to community projects.
With the removal of financial obstacles, students exceled, resulting in an almost 100 percent graduation rate. Graduates have secured sustainable livelihoods such as teaching, civil service, law and medicine to working for energy-based companies including bpTT itself.
Sustainable livelihoods in Mayaro have been created via these signature programmes and bolstered by our commitment to see them succeed. This required constant re-evaluation in order ensure that the initiatives evolved with the needs of the people.
Our ambition is to be a net zero company by 2050 or sooner and to help the world get to net zero. We have set out 10 aims to support this ambition.
Our purpose is reimagining energy for people and our planet. We want to help the world reach net zero and improve people’s lives
In the 12 months since launching the bp ambition to reimagine energy for people and planet, the company has made some key steps in the journey to #bpNetZero