Richard Roberts

Inquiry Lead

Richard leads Volans’ research work and is a strategic advisor to companies across multiple sectors – from finance to FMCG. He has more than a decade’s experience of working with companies to help them prepare for an uncertain future and put sustainability at the heart of their business strategy.  

From 2018 to 2020, he led on the Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry, which examined the role that businesses can play as catalysts of systems change. The results of the Inquiry fed into a report for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) called Reinventing Capitalism: A Transformation Agenda.  

Since 2020, he has worked extensively on finance and net zero. He is part of the delivery team for Bankers for Net Zero, the UK chapter of the UN-convened Net Zero Banking Alliance, which brings together leaders from banks, business and policy to accelerate progress towards net zero. He currently leads Volans’ work on corporate advocacy and co-leads the secretariat for a Global Council on Future Fuels initiated by the Government of the United Arab Emirates.  

Recent reports that Richard has authored or co-authored cover topics as diverse as the consequences of COVID-19 for the sustainable business agenda, decarbonising the UK built environment, the case for investing in long-termism, and how to grow the market for Sustainable Aviation Fuel. His writing on these and other topics has featured in Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, The European Business Review and Guardian Sustainable Business. 

Prior to joining Volans in 2016, Richard spent four years at Leaders’ Quest, a social enterprise that specialises in experiential learning and business transformation. He has a BA in history from Durham University and a Masters in US history from Oxford, where he specialised in the evolution of progressive political philosophy between 1880 and 1920. 

Outside of work, Richard’s interests include reading, writing, travel, cricket and opera. 

Richard’s Superpower: Curiosity

Q. Why do you do what you do?
A. I first started paying serious attention to issues like climate change and inequality in my teens. Once that happened, I couldn’t do a job that wasn’t about working to address social and environmental challenges. I tried once, but I didn’t last long.

Q. What does Volans say to you?
A. To me, Volans is about the creativity that flows when you marry curiosity with purpose. The purpose is clear: to enable a future in which 9 billion+ people can live sustainably and prosperously on one planet. The fun bit is figuring out how – and knowing that it’s our job to think the unthinkable.

Q. What brought you here?
A.  I was drawn to the company’s willingness to think big and the spirit of curiosity, humility and integrity that the whole team exudes.

Q. When are you most fulfilled?
A. When I’m able to trigger moments of clarity in others that lead to action.

Q. Where is your centre of gravity: past, present or future?
A. Somewhere between the present and the future. I love history, but mostly because of what I think it can teach us about the present and the future.