What is the value of sustainability? Reflections on branding sustainable places

By Laura Ripoll

Central to the question of what the potential role of place branding might be in supporting sustainable development is a much needed reflection on the purpose of branding, but also on what do we mean by sustainable approaches to place development. Sustainability for whom? And, at the expense of whom?

Prof. Fred Gale and Dr Laura Ripoll González argue in their latest research that in order to achieve sustainable outcomes in place branding processes, we must reflect on both the means and ends of achieving sustainability, and propose a review of how we understand value creation (what and for whom) in this context. In this short blog entry, we discuss the necessary changes in value conceptualisation necessary to achieve true sustainable outcomes at both process and outcome levels.

Full chapter: Ripoll González, L., Gale, F. (2021). Theorizing “Value” in Sustainable Urban Branding Strategies. In: Zavattaro, S.M. (eds) Public Branding and Marketing. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-70505-3_3

In the last two decades, cities and regions have been applying mainstream marketing and branding concepts to position their cities against global competition and assist their economic development agendas (Mommaas, 2002). Faced with the added complexities of branding places (complexity, dynamism, diffused ownership among many stakeholders), branding practitioners and scholars have recently focused on developing more inclusive or participatory processes (Kavaratzis et al, 2018). Despite a vocation for increased inclusivity, many critics in academia but also in practice have highlighted that such branding processes is still focused on increasing place sustainability understood as sustained value and benefits from economic exchanges whilst minimising their environmental footprint. In their chapter, Ripoll González and Gale (2021) argue that sustainainability, as understood by the Bruntland Commission and subsequently articulated by the Sustainable Development Goals framework, should encompass the economic, environmental and social value dimensions of place. Hence, if place branding is to become a tool for sustainable place development, we need to take account of our understanding of sustainability value underpinning place branding practice.

Ripoll González and Gale (2021) reflect on some of the key concepts in value theory in the philosophical, psychological, and political economy literatures and using the distinction between final values (ends) and instrumental values (means). They reflect on four main approaches to value (in the production and consumption of goods and services) that, they argue, should form the basis of a balanced and pluralistic tetravaluation approach to sustainability value, namely: use (what it is intendend for), function (role played in an ecosystem), exchange (trade off), and labor (cost of production, manpower).

The authors then reflect on political economic analyses to city branding and references to value and values (i.e. economic value, use value, public value, labor value and amenity value). To illustrate the different typologies of value applied in place branding, Ripoll Gonzalez and Gale (2021, p.8) develop a simple two-by-two matrix to classify four different usages approaches to value creation observed in the city branding literature (see Table 1):

*Ripoll Gonzalez and Gale (2021, p.32).

Ripoll González and Gale (2021) conclude that the participatory place branding approach is best fitted to deliver sustainability, provided that brand managers are transparent about what exchange and non-exchange values they bring to the fore and that an appropriate degree of deliberation occurs.

Read the full chapter here: Ripoll González, L., Gale, F. (2021). Theorizing “Value” in Sustainable Urban Branding Strategies. In: Zavattaro, S.M. (eds) Public Branding and Marketing. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-70505-3_3

Or contact ripollgonzalez@essb.eur.nl for more information

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