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Re-imagining the sustainability narrative in US cities

Staci M. Zavattaro (Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi, USA)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore how US cities are communicating a sustainability narrative. Based on an analysis, cities are using a sustainability narrative focusing on environmental sustainability and consumption. Critical theory is introduced as a means to imagine alternative narratives.


Exploratory in nature, this study relied on qualitative media analysis to analyze documents and images gathered from 22 US city websites. Critical theory is then introduced to provide a conceptual way forward from the status quo narrative form.


Cities are utilizing environmental narratives largely, rather than including social and economic interests inherent within holistic sustainability practices. Moreover, cities are promoting sustainability as consumption, a practice that is inherently not sustainable. Critical theory explains that marketers are relying on the “status quo” when it comes to crafting a sustainability narrative.

Practical implications

Destination marketing managers can think outside of given narratives to create their own sustainability stories that might help the place achieve a competitive advantage.


Knowledge into sustainability marketing practices is extended by revealing a consumption narrative and utilizing critical theory to move beyond this status quo.



M. Zavattaro, S. (2014), "Re-imagining the sustainability narrative in US cities", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 189-205.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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