‘Keeping it Clean’ with Natasha Patel, Director for Energy and Mobility at Baringa

Part 14 of ‘keeping it clean’, a blog series featuring inspiring people making a significant impact on the world through driving sustainability and cleantech agendas.

Natasha was one of the first people I made contact with when moving into the sector. She was welcoming, inspiring and extremely supportive, so it’s no surprise that her career has been a huge success.

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Natasha Patel — Director of Energy & Mobility at Baringa Partners

Natasha grew up in Bombay, and after completing her Bachelors in Management Studies, she moved to the UK to undertake a Masters at the London Business School. She then started her career in the world of consulting and made London her home.

After 9 years with KPMG, Natasha made the exciting leap to join Baringa in January of this year, where she is a Director for Energy and Mobility. She is currently working with clients across the Energy, Automotive, Transport and Infrastructure value chains to evaluate the impact of Electric Vehicles, Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility-as-a-Service on their strategies.

How would you describe yourself?

The best word to describe me is passionate. Perhaps it’s the reason why I talk so fast!

I get so into things! This is true both in my personal relationships and my professional career; in both I always bring my whole self. I bring passion to whatever I do. I’ve been told this countless times, and I believe it really shows through in both my private life and my career.

What have been your main drivers?

When I was younger I was driven much more by ambition, achieving as much as I could and reaching 100% of my potential. I never wanted to leave any stone unturned! I think the reason for this was perhaps that I didn’t know ‘what’ I wanted to focus on, so instead I put my energy into being as good as I possibly could be at whatever I was doing.

I’ve now been very lucky to find e-mobility and the decarbonisation agenda. I am now driven by purpose rather than just ‘being good at it’, although they come hand in hand. It’s a great feeling to know that my hard work will lead to a better society, and as I’ve ‘grown up’ that’s evolved in the best way that I could ask for.

Why e-mobility?

Having my daughter coincided beautifully with me finding e-mobility.

Being a mother, the lens through which you look at the world changes. Spending so much time away from my daughter, whatever I was doing needed to be ‘worth it’ and needed to leave her, and her entire generation with a better future.

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Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

Something else struck me in a particularly powerful way. When we would go out walking, she was exactly the same height as an exhaust pipe meaning she was breathing the fumes first. That further fuelled my fire to make a difference, to really make a change for her and perhaps that was an element of coincidence in terms of timing, but it was pretty much the exact same time that e-mobility came across my desk. I certainly felt a drive and passion for it that I hadn’t felt in any of the other sectors I’d worked in previously.

What is it about your job that makes you tick?

I really enjoy my role; it’s no longer just me doing something positive for the environment, it is me being able to help lots of others do better too. There is a joy that comes from being a Consultant, from having a level of access and influence over multiple organisations.

Within the energy and mobility sectors we are amplifying the impact of what we would like to achieve by helping others, sharing best practice, and that is the element that makes me passionate about my specific job. I thrive off enabling others to find a similar sense of purpose and accountability and from helping them through it in a multiplied fashion.

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On a slightly introspective note, we live in a capitalist economy, we work in a service sector, and are financially comfortable. When you consider these things and take a step back you realise your position on this globe and just how fortunate you are. I at least felt a little bit guilty, we are in this rat race, trying to earn more money, get a bigger house, buy a better car… it feels like a lot of these things we chase have a negative impact on the environment. Perhaps slightly selfishly, that has become one of the things that drives me.

It’s only when you slow down and take the time to reflect and think ‘what have I actually done in terms of my impact?’ that you make the decisions to change. It’s slightly more philosophical, but certainly one of the drivers that pushes me.

Alongside that more selfish aspect, leaving a future for my daughter, helping others through the struggle and amplifying my impact together make my passion for my career in mobility and decarbonisation as strong as it is.

What advice would you give people who do want to ‘make a difference’?

I’ve been really fortunate to be able to act on something that impacts us so deeply. A lot of people would like to do something but often don’t know where to start. My message to these people would be that small changes can have a big impact — even in the case of our transport and journeys.

Climate change is such a long-term thing, sometimes it can feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. ‘How does this one change possibly impact such a huge problem?’

Even if you believe passionately about it, it is still very difficult to know where to start. I’m lucky to be in a position to understand what I can do to help. I’ve had a much more immediate validation loop. The fact that I’ve influenced someone else to do something different gives me that validation and stops me asking why I’m doing it.

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Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

When it comes to other aspects of climate change: use of plastic, fast-fashion — I don’t always know what to do and how to make a difference. When I see the amount of ‘apparently’ recyclable plastic being shipped abroad, it’s truly heart breaking. So I continue to think ‘how am I going to change’ this. In some areas I am helpless as the rest of the public, but on transport I know I can influence choices and make a difference.

Working to better the environment has given me the insights of how I can help others to see what they can do differently. Especially around transport behaviours and the way we consume and think about energy. For me working on E-mobility means I can make a difference in at least one area, and each small change we make collectively makes a big impact.

What do you see as the greatest challenges facing the mobility sector?

There are two fronts that we need to consider:

The first challenge we have is that the corporates and industries that are trying to make this change are all driven by shareholders, market expectations on returns and the fundamental capitalist economy that I mentioned before. In this construct that we set up for ourselves we must appreciate the balance they are trying to achieve by making enough profit to ensure they can continue to invest for the future.

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Photo by Tower Electric Bikes on Unsplash

It’s actually a very tricky balance to make sure that is achieved in the right way, and sometimes the group of people who can break that or make it happen faster is the investor community. Green investments and the importance of ESG metrics is driving corporate agendas and in turn continues to drive investment in mobility. However, this feels very slow. So we must consider ‘how do we change the mindset of the three interlinked ecosystems– transport, energy and investment to make change happen faster?’

Whenever we’ve seen any dramatic change in our consumer behaviour or in our society, it has general been driven by a big corporate agenda. Take iPhones for example, they completely changed the way we interact with our phones, what we do on them and the way in which we use them: that was a corporate change. It may not have been for the better, but thinking if we had the power to change anything, and want to make it swift, then how do we make it a corporate agenda? We need more innovation and more investment leading to a faster change in societal behaviour.

So that was the ‘how do we change the industry mindset?’ and the 2nd part of this is ‘how do we change the public mindset?’. They absolutely must be interlinked.

So, changing the public mindset; We are already on a journey, it has started. This part of the puzzle is not a part of my current role, I don’t focus on this day to day and as such I’m less able to impact it.

My focus is e-mobility, transport energy and investment at a corporate level. I’m tackling the first of these challenges and driving it forward, but we need to crack the 2 sides of the coin together. Transforming 3 massive industries isn’t going to be easy!

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Where do you believe we can have the biggest impact on the environment in the short term?

I think the power lies with the end consumer. There are lots of examples of how consumer preferences change how corporates behave, and ultimately survive.

I can see the work that is being done on the industry side but I don’t know if we are doing enough to educate the end consumer. I would love to see more campaigns from industry, governments and individuals to better educate people on the impact of their travel, and what they could do differently.

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Photo by Florin Bică on Unsplash

An innovative example of this is the creation of apps which allow you to track your travel behaviour. Not only would it tell you your carbon impact in a simple way, but also gives alternative solutions — e.g. for this specific taxi ride, if you’d walked instead this would be the difference. It might not change everyone’s behaviour but knowing the options and helping people to think journey to journey and the easy changes they can make could be very impactful in the short-term.

So in short, educate people through innovative solutions, help them to understand the impacts of their choices and what alternatives they have…

Why does TikTok go viral and not this?

How can coporates make the biggest impact?

The UK sells about 2.7 million cars and vans per year and the total car and van parc is 36 million!

If you had to think about how we effectively transition this as quickly as possible, I believe the best way is to focus on fleets, not the leasing fleets, that’s another story altogether. I am talking about owned and operated fleets where a person or a business has made the decision on the fleet of vehicles they will own. You can have a much larger impact working with one person who is responsible for many vehicles than trying to reach 25 million people separately! This is intensified because these ‘fleet managers’ or business owners will look at the total cost of ownership rather than the ticket price, and EVs in most cases win.

Can you share a bit of insight into Baringa and why you clearly love working there?

The thing about Baringa for me is the people and the integrity. I’d heard people say lead by example or be transparent in communication, have a good culture by being kind. I heard that on my first day and thought, that makes a lot of sense, being kind is really what’s important.

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Photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

These things are said in a lot of places, but I’ve seen us live it, breathe it and imbibe it during my 5 months here.

I’ve been incredibly impressed with how this current crisis has been dealt with, not just by Partners but every single person at Baringa. At the outset, we set a principal ‘we are all in this together’. It’s really not just words said and not lived; here it is lived, it feels like home. We keep our word, we have integrity and we really are all in this together.

What’s your vision for a brighter tomorrow? For your daughter’s future?

Given my little place in the world, I would love, love, love to see widespread EV adoption across the world — it’s not about the UK doing it’s bit, it needs to be a fundamental change in EV adoption and decarbonisation of transport across the world; in the next 10 years for developed countries, and the next 20 years for developing countries and no later! The UK should not be comparing itself with India. The UK should be challenging itself to do something much faster, and I’m ok with giving India more time.

Thank you, Natasha, that was truly inspiring to hear you talk from the heart!

Connect with us to keep the clean discussion going… and if you would like to feature in the series, do get in touch! 🌏

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Written by

Avid Traveller. Sustainability Advocate. London based Recruiter. Sustainability and Cleantech Writer. Cyclist. Muay Thai Enthusiast.

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