Urban sustainability and environmental justice: Evaluating the linkages in public planning/policy discourse

Hamil Pearsall*, Joseph Pierce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

65 Citations (Scopus)


Many cities' municipal governments have made some version of sustainability an explicit policy goal over the past two decades. Previous research has documented how the operationalisation and conceptualisation of sustainability in urban sustainability plans vary greatly among cities, particularly with respect to environmental justice. This article reports on whether and how large American cities incorporate environmental justice into their urban sustainability indicator projects. Our findings suggest that while there has been an increase in the number of cities incorporating environmental justice elements into sustainability plans since the early 2000s, their conceptualizations and implementations of sustainability remain highly constrained. The paucity of evaluative tools suggests that environmental justice efforts are potentially losing traction in public debate over macro-scale sustainability concerns (e.g. climate change) or the need for regionally competitive environmental amenities (e.g. parks). This paper concludes with suggestions for revising existing sustainability plans to better reflect environmental justice concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-580
Number of pages12
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010


  • Discourse analysis
  • Environmental justice
  • Equity
  • Planning
  • Sustainability indicators
  • Urban sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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