Sustainable city branding narratives: a critical appraisal of processes and outcomes
Purpose -This study aims to explore whether adopting a sustainability narrative in city branding and urban development strategies results in more inclusive governance arrangements (process) and a more pluralistic approach to generating sustainability value (outcome), in line with the triple bottom line approach advocated by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The authors argue that a necessary step to enable meaningful sustainable urban development is to rethink the way in which "value" and "value creation" are being interpreted in urban development policies and city branding narratives.
Design/methodology/approach - Mixed-methods case study of New York City’s (NYC) urban development and city branding strategies (2007-2019) combining analysis of academic and grey literature on NYC’s urban development and city branding, value hierarchies in NYC urban development strategic plans and local media reports covering NYC's development and branding processes.
Findings - Despite claiming commitment to urban sustainability, NYC's urban development and branding narratives reveal a clear dominance of interpreting "value" primarily as "exchange value", thus prioritising economic growth.
Research limitations/implications- In the authors' view, a systemic, systematic and structured approach to generating "sustainability value" is necessary if city branding is to become a governance tool to support sustainable urban development. A "tetravaluation" approach is recommended as a practical, structured framework that can bridge across the ideas of "sustainability value" and "pluralistic governance", ensuring effective implementation. Further investigation in additional urban contexts is required.
Originality/value - The research contributes to current scholarly debates towards more balanced and pluralistic conceptions of "value" and place branding as a more holistic, participatory and democratic governance model for sustainable urban development.