Sustainability as economic value pluralism: Implications for urban politics and policy

Laura Ripoll González*, Fred Gale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Many cities around the world have adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals framework (SDGs) to assist the operationalization of a triple-bottom line approach to sustainable development (SD). However, despite an expressed commitment to the SDGs, the narratives underpinning city branding, city policy, urban planning and urban development strategies still mostly focus on generating economic value narrowly conceived as exchange value, a strategy that delivers growth with many attendant social, community, and environmental risks. In this communication, we employ a systems-based political economic lens to first provide an account of historical conceptualisations of economic value, and subsequently to identify the need for a pluralistic, systemic approach that integrates exchange value with use, labour and function value components. We analyse how value has been represented (or not) in New York City branding and urban planning strategies over time (2007–2017), illustrating how the City's urban development plans and sustainable city narratives have favoured the pursuit of exchange value despite its formal adoption of the SDGs. We advocate for a more systematic and encompassing approach to economic value, termed sustainability value (SV), that embeds all four value types, noting that this requires a more participatory democratic ‘tetravaluation’ approach to governance to operationalize urban sustainability at the political, policy and implementation levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104167
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

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