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Responsible Leadership
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Responsible Leadership

Lessons From the Front Line of Sustainability and Ethics 

Mark Moody-Stuart
March 2014   364+xxii pp   234 x 156 mm  
hardback   ISBN 978-1-906093-96-9   Ł25.00  

Alternative formats: eBook (ePub)   eBook (PDF)


Review copies   Inspection copies

Responsible Leadership has been selected for John Elkington's Best Business Books 2014 - Sustainability.

Axiom Business Book Awards - Business Ethics 2015 joint winner

"This is an insider's view of the machinations within organizations as disparate as Shell and the United Nations, and it engages hot-button issues, such as top team remuneration, human rights abuses, and corruption, head-on." - John Elkington, Best Business Books 2014 - Sustainability, strategy+business

"It is hard to imagine a better guide by raising the issues, and with a perspective based on experience, Moody-Stuarts book provides an invaluable source of wisdom on how to grapple with them."  - Ed Crooks, Financial Times

Makes for intriguing reading ... mostly because its author has been instrumental in framing how corporate responsibility is understood" - Oliver Balch, Guardian Sustainable Business

In this unique book - part memoir, part confessional, part manifesto for leadership - we hear a leading voice from the front line of corporate responsibility.



Click here to watch an interview with Sir Mark Moody-Stuart (UN Global Compact Business for Peace)

Click here to read the Introduction (PDF)

As Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group from 1998-2001 and of Anglo American plc from 2002-2009, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart is as qualified as anyone on the planet to discuss the realities, dilemmas and lessons to be learnt from the last 20 years of corporate engagement with sustainability, ethics and responsibility. In this unique book - part memoir, part confessional, part manifesto for leadership - we hear a leading voice from the front line of corporate responsibility. Moody-Stuart retraces the steps of a remarkable journey from being a postgraduate geologist to being at the helm of two of the largest corporations in the world.

We hear of dealings with dictators and prime ministers, colleagues and NGOs, rivals and friends. We travel from Syria to Nigeria; Iraq to Downing Street; and from the machinations of the United Nations to those inside the boardroom of Shell. We see Shell's annus horribilis in 1995 unfold through the eyes of an insider,and how Brent Spar and the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa sent shockwaves through the company,resulting in a complete reappraisal of its mission and principles. We hear about the oil and mining sectors and their complicated development role in areas of conflict and corruption;the way that markets have failed us on climate change and corruption; and how governments need to step up to the global challenges we face.

We hear how Deepwater Horizon could have been avoided; what Shell were asked to do by Tony Blair during the UK fuel blockades of 2000 and why they declined; why China is too important to ignore; and why the Global Compact is too important to fail. We hear lessons from a life spent living in 10 different countries and we come to realize that, for corporations,trying to do the right thing can sometimes be almost impossible. We also come to know a deeply ethical and thoughtful leader who has always tried to do exactly that.

Sir Robert Wilson, KCMG, former Executive Chairman of Rio Tinto plc; former Chairman of BG Group plc

Click here to read (PDF)

Mark Malloch-Brown, former UN Deputy Secretary-General

Click here to read (PDF)



1. Differing development outcomes and their causes
2. Coalitions, governments and doing the right thing
3. The United Nations Global Compact
4. Some alternatives in countries with military rule or human rights abuses: Sanctions or withdrawal
5. Dining with the devil: Engaging with those guilty of human rights abuses
6. Markets are essential, but they cannot do everything
7. Oil, gas and climate change
8. Corruption: The biggest market failure of all
9. Enterprise solutions to poverty and development
10. Lessons from China on poverty eradication
11. 1995: Shells annus horribilis and its consequences
12. Embedding values and principles
13. Changes in structure and governance: Do they matter?
14. Differences in remuneration and wealth in companies and societies
15. The business of not-for-profit enterprises



Drawing on a wealth of personal experience, Mark Moody-Stuart's book reminds us of the urgent need for responsible corporate leadership, particularly in the extractives industries, which have suffered a poor track record in the past. Responsible leadership is necessary to develop trust between governments and business, to create the conditions to lift millions out of poverty, and to promote inclusive growth and protect the environment.
Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General


Sir Mark Moody-Stuart's brilliance and insight into the complexities and challenges facing international businesses today is a must-read for all in business. The breadth and depth of his unparalleled experiences, shaped by his lifetime of living and working overseas, place him in a category of unique experts who truly understand what it means to lead responsibly in a global world.
Cynthia Carroll, former Chief Executive, Anglo American plc


This is an insightful book from a business leader who is willing to discuss openly the dilemmas and shortcomings of business in the area of human rights. Mark Moody-Stuart draws on his experience representing oil companies in developing countries and in later years chairing the board of the UN Global Compact. His reasons for championing what can be achieved by coalitions involving business, governments and civil society are highly relevant to the twin challenges of a post-2015 sustainable development agenda and a robust climate agreement.
Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; President of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice


A wonderful anatomy of what it takes to be a sustainable and ethical business, from one of the earliest and most distinguished proponents of responsible leadership.  Wide-ranging in its scope and perceptive in its analysis, this is an important contribution for any modern manager keen to understand what it takes to operate responsibly in today's highly complex and interdependent world.
Paul Polman, Chief Executive, Unilever


Mark must have initially been viewed by some in the energy industry as a turncoat when he became a champion of UN codes of good business. This book shows how he won over the doubters and put sustainability and ethics at the heart of the new business equation.
Mark Malloch-Brown, Regional Chairman, FTI Consulting; former UN Deputy Secretary-General


Mark Moody-Stuart brings a unique perspective as a corporate leader deeply engaged with civil society and NGOs. He provides insightful assessment of what works and doesnt work when seeking to loosen the grip of oppressive governments and reduce violence. He forthrightly takes us into the challenges of decision-making within international companies. He demonstrates how complex it is to find the right balance between the responsibilities of governments, companies and civil society  and how important it is to try.
Daniel Yergin, author of 'The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World' and 'The Prize'


Whether he came by it innately or learned it in the school of hard knocks, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, former chief executive of Shell, is a member of a rare species: a business statesman, one who understands the corporation as a social institution not merely an undertaking for private gain. In Responsible Leadership, Moody-Stuart draws on his vast range of professional experiences to illuminate the complex issues and dilemmas of corporate social responsibility, and he explains why getting it right requires an all hands on deck approach. Everyone, from new students of the subject to seasoned professionals, will find gems of insight and valuable examples in this book.
John G. Ruggie, Harvard University, Former UN Special Representative for Business & Human Rights


Mark Moody-Stuart's experience in the development of some of the first efforts at sustainable business and the creation of the United Nations Global Compact make essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of international business sustainability since the Cold War. His account of life in international business is a timely reminder that the fight against corruption depends on a unified response from companies, governments and civil society.
Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International


A fascinating, thoughtful and wise book. Perceptive analysis of the range of critical global issues facing big business today is leavened with revealing anecdotes from a life of interacting with everyone from presidents and prime ministers to oil drillers and community activists. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart has thought deeply about the multiple dilemmas and challenges that spring up at the interface of business and society, and writes candidly and engagingly about them. This is a highly recommended read.
Daniel Litvin, author of Empires of Profit: Commerce, Conquest and Corporate Responsibility


In the Nineties, engaging Shell was seen by some as akin to dining with the Devil. But Sir Mark Moody-Stuart tops my list of mainstream business pioneers in the linked areas of ethics and sustainability. Read his account of dining with real devils, those responsible for human rights abuses. His book makes uncomfortable reading because it challenges our preconceptions. Highly recommended.
John Elkington, co-founder, Environmental Data Services (ENDS), SustainAbility and Volans


This book is a true treasure chest of wisdom and practical guidance on many of the issues which business and policy leaders should know more about. A testimony of responsible leadership, it should be a must-read for the next generation of business leaders in all regions of the world.
Georg Kell, Executive Director, UN Global Compact


Globalisation has transformed the world. Globalisation is not an abstract process. The profit-seeking firm lies at its core. Unfortunately, few scholars and journalists understand fully the role of the global corporation and few business leaders write about the role their firms have played in this process. Mark Moody-Stuart's book fills a critically important gap in the literature. Based on his own wide experience with Shell, as well as with Anglo-American and the UN Global Compact, his book sheds invaluable light on almost every key issue in globalisation, including politics, international relations, coporate governance, corruption, energy and the environment, poverty reduction, inequality and social justice. Based on deep real-world knowledge his book provides a realistic but optimistic view of the challenges involved in intelligently regulating the global corporation in the interests of the whole of mankind. It should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the real world of globalisation.
Peter Nolan, Chong Hua Professor of Chnese Development, and Director, Centre of Development Studies, University of Cambridge


The book, which bears my endorsement on its dust jacket, provides candid accounts of Moody-Stuart's dealings with prime ministers and dictators, colleagues and competitors, and investors and NGOs. This is an insider's view of the machinations within organizations as disparate as Shell and the United Nations, and it engages hot-button issues, such as top team remuneration, human rights abuses, and corruption, head-on.
John Elkington, Best Business Books 2014 - Sustainability, strategy+business


Makes for intriguing reading  mostly because its author has been instrumental in framing how corporate responsibility is understood  "One of the biggest risks faced by companies is that everyone starts thinking the same," Moody-Stuart concludes. His book marks a valiant attempt to avoid that trap. The conclusions won't re-write the rules of corporate capitalism  nor will they remove the risk of more anni horribiles in the future. But, if the book persuades his fellow corporate insiders to look outside their shells, then it should edge forward the debate.

Oliver Balch, Guardian Sustainable Business


In Responsible Leadership, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart sets out his ideas on what committing to those often slippery concepts might mean. He ran Shell as managing director from 1991-2001 and as chairman from 1998-2001  and was also chairman of Anglo American, the mining group, from 2002-09.

It is hard to imagine a better guide. The book is, as he says, not an auto­biography but a memoir that looks back thoughtfully to draw lessons about the role of business in reducing poverty and promoting human rights.

It is serious, as you would expect from chapter titles such as The UN Global Compact, but never dull. The scope of Moody-Stuarts career and the sharpness of his eye mean he has great stories to tell, and his views on issues such as sanctions, corruption and climate change are grounded in experience rather than pre- judice or wishful thinking.

Nor is he afraid to make judgments. A damning ac­count of a meeting in 2000 with Tony Blair, when protests by truckers against rising fuel prices cut off fuel supplies in Britain, shows the prime minister dismissing press stories that had been planted by his own press secretary, and joking unkindly about John Prescott being technologically challenged.

Moody-Stuart writes: Some people may regard these two instances as minor, but they made an impression on me as indicative of the values of the prime minister.

As that anecdote suggests, politics and business are inextricably intertwined in the oil industry.

Another instructive tale is about a joint venture in Chad owned by Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil. In 1993 Chevron wanted to sell its stake to Elf, the French state-owned company, for the bargain price of $20m, but Shell wanted to buy the stake itself, as it was entitled to under a joint venture agreement.

Moody-Stuart and his wife were taken to the opera by Loďk Le Floch-Prigent, Elfs chief executive, who explained during the interval that there was no way Shell would be able to exercise its pre-emption rights to stop Elf buying the stake, because if Chad allowed it, the French government would withdraw its military support for Chads president.

Sure enough, Chads government blocked the Shell deal, allowing the Elf deal to go ahead.

The centrepiece of the book is the account of 1995, Shells annus hor­ribilis, which shows the interpenetration of bus­iness and politics first as farce and then as tragedy.

The farce was Brent Spar, a redundant floating oil tank that Shell plan­ned to sink in the Atlantic, but had to cut up and re­cycle, at much greater ex­pense, because of a Green­peace campaign that was later found to have used erroneous evidence about the environmental threat.

The tragedy was the ex­ecution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian writer and activist, with eight others, by the military government of Sani Abacha. Shell, one of the biggest foreign oil companies in Nigeria, was ac­cused of complicity in the executions; it is an accusation Moody-Stuart rejects as quite untrue.

It was those two incidents that led Shell to make its 1997 commitments. Moody-Stuart ob­serves that many companies have since made similar declarations by signing up to the UNs Global Compact of principles for supporting human rights, labour and the en­vi­ron­ment, and only grad­ually come to realise how difficult it is to truly embed them in their companys operation.

Indeed, Shell had a res­erves misreporting scan­dal in 2004, a higher number of fatalities among its workforce than for other big western oil companies , and most rec­ently protests over its plans to drill in the Arctic.

But by raising the is­sues, and with a perspective based on experience, Moody-Stuarts book provides an invaluable source of wisdom on how to grapple with them.

Ed Crooks, Financial Times

Sir MARK MOODY-STUART, KCMG, PhD, MA, FGS was Chairman of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group from 19912001 and Chairman of Anglo American plc 20022009; he is currently Chairman of Hermes EOS, Director of Saudi Aramco and Vice Chairman of the UN Global Compact.