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Ethical business   |   The big interview

Wicked Chats with Bevis Watts

Dr Bevis Watts is chief executive of Triodos Bank UK. His 20-year career has been spent leading organisations that have a positive impact on the environment and society. He was previously chief executive of Avon Wildlife Trust and head of business support at The Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP).

Describe yourself in three words. Passionate, purposeful and committed.

What’s been your worst job? Collecting golf balls as a Saturday job when I was aged 15. It was very boring and monotonous most of the time, although you could graduate to driving a tractor if you proved yourself! There was an element of peril too – I was on occasion hit by a stray golf ball and they’re quite painful. I don’t remember health and safety being a concern for cash in hand Saturday staff.

Favourite vegetable? For me, it has to be potatoes, having tried to grow them myself. There’s a real joy to finding them in the ground and digging them up – that element of discovery. But they’re also pretty versatile when cooking, which is a bonus.

One single thing you could change about the world? I would like to see the world become less focused on the individual – whether that’s people, organisations or countries – and more on sharing and working together. Only through changing how we think and connect can we address the huge external crises we face, such as the climate and ecological emergencies, or social inequality. Overall, I’d be very happy to see humankind evolve to be less individual and materialistic, instead becoming more altruistic and caring.

Your biggest fear? Getting it wrong. Triodos is a reference point for how banking could be different and at the moment we’re steadily proving to people that a different kind of banking can be successful. But there’s huge pressure to get it right. If we, as global pioneers, don’t make sustainable banking work, people will be very quick to dismiss our way of doing things. It is our customers who inspire us to keep going and we are always looking for more people to join our community and support what we are doing.

What’s your ideal day, including food, place and activity? At work, my ideal day is visiting one of the inspirational businesses that we lend to – seeing the impact that our finance can have and sharing some organic food over lunch. I’m not able to get out and about to visit customers as often as I’d like – particularly at the moment – but when I do, it’s fantastic.

First memory? My earliest memory is playing in a neighbour’s sandpit when I was around a year, maybe 18 months old. They had a dog called Percy, a spaniel. Maybe that’s why I like beaches so much now?

What would your superpower be? Time travel. I’d use it to show people the potential future that we’re facing if we don’t act now on pressing social and climate issues. Maybe then people would think more about the long-term consequences of their actions.

What do you most dislike in others? Selfishness, especially when it comes to consumption and using the planet’s resources. I respect people who think about the impact of their actions on other people and the natural world.

When did you last cry and why? The last time I welled up was at a former colleague’s virtual funeral during the full lockdown period. It was a strange and surreal experience of not being able to support his family and see friends at a moment like that.

What gives you strength? I feel very grounded in nature. I have a real love of wildlife and so spend as much time as I can outdoors, which gives me strength and mental balance. After a day of fresh air, I’m left feeling physically and mentally nurtured. However, I am never happier than when I’m underwater, scuba diving.

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