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4 January 2023

Juliet Davenport’s Q&A: “We humans have a lemming tendency”

The green entrepreneur on why communication matters in science and how we’re being let down by our politicians.

By New Statesman

Juliet Davenport was born in Surrey in 1968. In 1999 she founded Good Energy, a renewable energy supplier. She is now the chair of Atrato Onsite Energy, the first company on the London Stock Exchange with an all-female board.

What’s your earliest memory?

Sitting by the window in the flat in London where I lived as a kid, looking out. It was meant to be summer, and I didn’t understand why it was raining.

Who are your heroes?

As a child my heroes were cartoon characters: Asterix, who fought for what he believed in, and Tank Girl, from the slightly un-PC cartoon about a girl who drove tanks and tried to take over a dystopian world. 

What book last changed your thinking?

Radical Candor by Kim Scott. It’s about how people behave in businesses, how you bring humanity back into the office.

Which political figure do you look up to?

I admire those who stand up for what they believe in, even though they might be behind the scenes, such as Nick Hurd, Alan Whitehead and Charles Hendry, who all worked on combating climate change.

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What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

It’s really sad. European energy policy 1993 to 1999, or UK energy policy 1999 to 2020.

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I love Argentina, but I don’t like the politics. I would take Finland or Sweden and transpose it into Argentina, to make a hybrid future state with a forward-thinking, non-corrupt government, in Argentina’s landscape.

What TV show could you not live without?

I like ones that teach me new skills: a cooking programme, or DIY SOS. What I could really do with is a DIY Energy SOS: I’ve been trying to insulate all the doors in my house, and I’m not sure I’m very good at it.

Who would paint your portrait?

Picasso. Even if a lot of his paintings are not necessarily that attractive, they are insightful.

What’s your theme tune?

“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” by George Michael and Elton John – it’s an appeal to not throw things away, but to work things out. And “Power” by Little Mix. It mentions gasoline – I’d have to change that. But if you took its sentiment and made it eco, it would be brilliant.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I wasn’t ever very good at writing. I had a brilliant teacher who said to me that my spoken voice was quite capable, but my written voice wasn’t, and I needed to focus on bringing the two closer together. When you’re a scientist, nobody really explains the importance of communication.

What’s currently bugging you?

The feeling that UK politics are not delivering. We’re being let down.

What single thing would make your life better?

If I felt that we were looking after our planet more, and looking after the people who live on this planet more.

When were you happiest?

I walked my dog this morning. It’s the sunniest day, and I live in a beautiful part of the West Country. That makes me happy.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A surgeon. I’m not remotely squeamish.

Are we all doomed?

We don’t need to be doomed, but I worry that we have a lemming tendency. We need a reset of our politics.

“The Green Start-Up: Make Your Business Better For the Planet” by Juliet Davenport is published by Heligo Books

[See also: Torsten Bell interview: Why the UK is being hit hardest]

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This article appears in the 04 Jan 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Sunak Under Siege