Urban sustainability via urban productivity? A conceptual review and framework proposal

Maria Spiliotopoulou, Mark Roseland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This paper offers conceptual and operational insights for more effective and forward-looking local sustainability decision-making through the emerging concept and framework of holistic urban productivity. Following a short discussion of the contemporary understand and theoretical influences of urban sustainability, we explore the concept, principles, and practices of urban productivity and look at how they can help address urban sustainability planning, implementation, and assessment. We then introduce a conceptual framework for holistic urban productivity which encompasses a set of principles and goals to tackle complex urban processes for effective, inclusive, and forward-looking decision-making. It is informed by and converges numerous theories and approaches and seeks to act as an overarching framework to help operationalise sustainability by empowering urban actors to pursue balanced and synergistic optimisation of all urban community elements. A city that implements the principles and framework of holistic urban productivity embraces economic resilience with shifts in employment patterns and habits; innovative, socially just, and environmentally responsible technologies; compact and nature-enhancing land use planning; strong social connections and affordable housing; and green, light, and smart infrastructure. Urban productivity principles can help lead the transformation of cities into well-functioning and sustainable systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-196
Number of pages20
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Urban sustainability
  • regenerative sustainability
  • sustainability frameworks
  • sustainable cities
  • urban productivity
  • urban systems thinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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