Responsible Leadership

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Responsible Leadership

Lessons from the Front Line of Sustainability and Ethics

  • The Strategy+Business Best Business Sustainability Book 2014 Winner

  • Axiom.png

    Axiom Business Book Awards - Business Ethics 2015 Joint winner

As Chairman of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group from 1991–2001 and 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 unique 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.

... the most meaningful and revealing insights on sustainability ever written by a corporate executive.

on 27 May 2014 Crosslands Bulletin

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.

on 5 Mar 2014 Oliver Balch, Guardian Sustainable Business

It is hard to imagine a better guide… by raising the is­sues, and with a perspective based on experience, Moody-Stuart’s book provides an invaluable source of wisdom on how to grapple with them.

Financial Times Ed Crooks

Makes for intriguing reading … mostly because its author has been instrumental in framing how corporate responsibility is understood …

Oliver Balch, Guardian Sustainable Business

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.

on 19 Dec 2013 Kofi Annan, former UN 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 doesn’t 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'

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.

on 7 Jan 2013 Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; President of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice

There is much to be learned from this fascinating book, which draws on many practical examples and explains the way they were addressed by a man who is both deeply thoughtful and possessed of a powerful moral conscience.

on 4 Jan 2014 Sir Robert Wilson KCMG, former Executive Chairman of Rio Tinto plc; former Chairman of BG Group plc

There is much to be learned from this fascinating book, which draws on many practical examples and explains the way they were addressed by a man who is both deeply thoughtful and possessed of a powerful moral conscience. The lessons are relevant not only to current generations of business managers, but to all who want to understand the interface of industry and the geo-political world.

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

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.

on 3 Jan 2014 Cynthia Carroll, former Chief Executive, Anglo American plc

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's Global Compact, his book sheds invaluable light on almost every key issue in globalisation, including politics, international relations, corporate 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.

on 16 Dec 2013 Peter Nolan, Chong Hua Professor of Chinese Development, and Director, Centre of Development Studies

[Mark’s] compassion and profound sense of service has found a larger stage than his own generous personal philanthropy. Through changing how business behaves, he is helping to rewrite the terms of modern society. An unlikely perhaps, but very effective, revolutionary.


on 10 Dec 2013 Mark Malloch-Brown, former UN Deputy Secretary-General

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.

on 2 Dec 2013 Huguette Labelle, Chair, Transparency International

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

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'; founder and director of Critical Resource

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 Office



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


Mark Malloch Brown, former UN Deputy Secretary-General



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: Shell’s 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



Sir MARK MOODY-STUART was Chairman of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group from 1991–2001 and Chairman of Anglo American plc 2002–2009; he is currently Chairman of Hermes EOS, Director of Saudi Aramco and Vice Chairman of the UN Global Compact.

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