Charles Middleton: How I find my zen…


Working for Triodos is more than just a job. We have passionate and engaging customers doing wonderful things and I can’t help being motivated by them. I often feel I need to interact with the customers to get energy from feeling connected to what we’re trying to do,” says Charles Middleton, managing director of UK Business for Triodos Bank, a pioneer of sustainable banking which lends to businesses and charities it considers of social, or ecological benefit. So how does Charles find his Zen?


The values of Zen feel resonant with the values of Triodos. We try to take a thoughtful, reflective and caring perspective. That means caring for ourselves as well as others. We have quite a lot of Buddhist and other faith groups borrowing money and we work with organisations that provide therapeutic care, so there’s a big crossover with Zen..


To encourage calm reflection, we have meditation classes every Friday at our main office in Bristol and we have run happiness habit courses. So many successful companies have introduced mindfulness that there’s a feeling that if  you’re not doing it you’re not following the zeitgeist. I think it’s an exciting development as long as it doesn’t become a box-ticking exercise with companies saying ‘oh, we’ve put on a course so we’ve done our bit for office wellbeing’.

There’s another connection between Triodos’ sustainability values and the ‘Zen’ wish to escape from habits of excessive consumption. But I don’t want to paint a ridiculously rose-tinted view of Triodos. We have to earn money and do all the things that any other bank does. But we try to do it in away that allows space and time for a more mindful and reflective approach. It’s something we’ve developed more in the last two years thanks to some individuals taking up the challenge.


The special thing about working at Triodos is the commonality of purpose. Fortunately, there isn’t a sharp disconnect between working for Triodos and my life outside work. Last year, I completed a three-year psychotherapy degree and I now practise as a counsellor. The course involved lots of reflective work and I have maintained the habit of keeping a journal, which is therapeutic.


I run a small charity called ChildHope, which works with streets kids in South America, Asia and Africa. Having spent many years living in India and Africa I have a sense of what life can be there and what it’s possible to do to help. My hobby is taking pictures, especially of people, and I have to do that often enough to maintain my inner peace. And I have a family to keep me on my toes and give me a sense of perspective.