Influencing Fairtrade consumption through servant leadership: Bruce Crowther’s story

Anthony Samuel, Gareth Reginald Terence White, Helen Martin, Martyn Rowling

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This study aims to expand understanding of servant leadership beyond organisational boundaries by making an examination of its role in the establishment and growth of a social movement.

This paper’s findings are developed from four sequential, semi-structured interviews and a narrated tour of Garstang with the founder of the Fairtrade Towns (FTT) movement. It follows a theoretical framework of servant leadership (SLship) from Spears (1996; 2009). Evidence is gathered through in-depth investigation of the activities of Bruce Crowther, the architect and driving force behind the FTT initiative.

The findings discovered how SLship operates in a social, place-based setting to influence Fairtrade consumption. The paper argues the success of the FTT movement is linked to Bruce Crowther’s leadership. The findings presented draw and expand upon Spears’ ten characteristics of SLship. Utilisation of this framework sees Crowther emerge as a servant leader operating at a community level to influence FT consumption via the FTT movement.

The paper makes a contribution to theory by identifying the novel characteristic of servant leaders that is exploring affinity and proffers it as an extension of Spears’ framework. It also provides valuable information about the impact and importance of SLship in the efficacious advance of ethical consumerism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociety and Business Review
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2018


  • Servant leadership
  • Ethical leadership
  • Fairtrade
  • Ethical consumption
  • Exploring affinity


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