Stanley is above all a West Countryman. He was born in Cornwall in August 1940, and educated at Ravenswood School, near Tiverton, Devon, Sherborne School, Dorset and Exeter College, Oxford, where he won a Stapeldon Scholarship in Classics. Since 1951 his family has farmed on Exmoor, on the Devon-Somerset border, and Stanley still manages the farm there today.
On leaving Oxford in 1963, Stanley was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to the United States in 1963. He is a former Conservative member of the European Parliament (MEP) where he served (1979-1984) as Vice Chairman of the Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection.
He has also worked in the European Commission (1973-1979) as Head of the Prevention of Pollution division and (1984-1994) as Senior Adviser to DG Environment and as Director of Energy Policy.
Before joining the Commission, Stanley served on the staff of the World Bank and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Stanley has been an adviser to Price Waterhouse Coopers, a director of ERM, an environmental consultancy, a trustee of the Earthwatch Institute and Plantlife International and an environmental adviser to Jupiter Asset Management. He is currently a trustee of the Gorilla Organisation (www.gorillas.org) and an Ambassador for the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) (www.cms.int)
He has had ten books published dealing with environmental issues, including the Politics of the Environment, the Earth Summit and the Environmental Policy of the European Communities. He has also had nine novels published, including The Commissioner which was made into a film starring John Hurt.
In 1984 he was awarded the Greenpeace Prize for Outstanding Services to the Environment and in the same year the RSPCA Richard Martin award for services to animal welfare. In 1962 he won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry.
In 2012 Stanley was awarded the WWF Silver Medal and in 2015 he received the RSPB's Medal for Services to Nature Conservation' and the WWF Leaders of the Living Planet Award.
Stanley has four children by his first marriage to the painter Charlotte Johnson-Wahl: Boris, Rachel, Leo and Joseph. He also has two children, Julia and Maximilian, by his second marriage to Jennifer.