Richard has spent much of his working life in the founding and development of several successful not-for-profit, community-owned, or co-operative enterprises that allow people to express constructive social and evironmental values through their work, spending or saving. Amongst these are Traidcraft, (the origins of which can be traced back to Richard's time at St John's in the 1960s) the Fairtrade Foundation and Warm Zones. The majority have been focussed on fair trade, the problems of social exclusion, international development and sustainability.
Richard has degrees in sociology, theology and business with honorary doctorates from Durham and Newcastle Universities. In 2006 he was listed by the Independent newspaper as one of the top 50 people in the UK who had had most impact in "making the world a better place" for his practical development of the concept of ethical shopping. From 2001-2015 he was a member of the European Union's Economic and Social Committee, and is currently a delegate to the EU's Consultative COmmittee on Industrial Change, where he specialises in energy, ethical and environmental issues. His current interests are focussed on developing an inclusive dialogue on the role of energy in a sustainable world and the potential influence of religious traditions.