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Branding the eco-city: Rhetoric or reality?

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2019) | Viewed by 4023

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Guest Editor
Department of Marketing, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Interests: place branding; place identity; corporate social responsibility; urban development and change
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over the past two decades, researchers have focused their attention on understanding the concept of eco-cities as a means to realise sustainable urban development. Within this debate, some authors have questioned whether the eco-city model is no more than a branding hoax (Yigitcanlar and Lee, 2014). In practice, there is evidence of the widespread adoption of eco-city models as a mechanism to achieve sustainable development (Caprotti, 2014; de Jong, Chen, Joss, Lu, Zhao, Yang, and Zhang, 2018).

The aim of this Special Issue of Sustainability is to critically examine the connections between city branding and sustainable urban development, with a particular focus on eco-city models. This special issue welcomes papers that investigate whether these two frameworks for organising and governing urban development are conceptually compatible, realistic, and potentially synergistic in their ambitions. Alternatively, is there evidence to show that eco-city branding strategies are little more than a rhetorical device? Contributions are encouraged on topics that bridge the theories and practice of branding eco-cities. In particular, papers on the following topics are encouraged:

  • Evidence-based outcomes of eco-city branding strategies to achieve sustainable outcomes
  • Stakeholder perceptions of eco-city brands (including credibility, uniqueness, and fit)
  • The influence of eco-urbanism on cities’ branding strategies and practices
  • The process of and mechanisms for constructing eco-city branding strategies
  • Residents’ participation and engagement in eco-city branding
  • The interplay of economic and industrial development on cities’ eco-brand positioning
  • The role of scale and status in national and global city hierarchies in influencing eco-city branding strategies and practices
  • Discourse analysis, as well as other approaches, to examine the meaning of eco-city brands
  • Re-branding and repositioning city brands as eco-cities so as to achieve sustainable urban development


de Jong, M., Chen, Y., Joss, S., Lu, H., Zhao, M., Yang, Q., & Zhang, C. (2018). Explaining city branding practices in China's three mega-city regions: The role of ecological modernization. Journal of Cleaner Production, 179, 527-543. doi:

Caprotti, F. (2014). Critical research on eco-cities? A walk through the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, China. Cities, 36, 10-17. doi:

Yigitcanlar, T., & Lee, S. H. (2014). Korean ubiquitous-eco-city: A smart-sustainable urban form or a branding hoax? Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 89, 100-114. doi:

Dr. Andrea Insch
Guest Editor

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  • sustainable urbanisation
  • eco-cities
  • city branding
  • sustainability
  • urban planning

Published Papers (1 paper)

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46 pages, 1373 KiB  
City Branding and Industrial Transformation from Manufacturing to Services: Which Pathways do Cities in Central China Follow?
by Meiling Han, Martin de Jong and Minghui Jiang
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 5992; - 28 Oct 2019
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3497
A potentially attractive way for cities to maintain economic growth while reducing environmental harm is to let their production structures undergo industrial transformation, a process otherwise known as ecological modernization. This attraction lies mainly in the fact that residents, visitors and corporations prefer [...] Read more.
A potentially attractive way for cities to maintain economic growth while reducing environmental harm is to let their production structures undergo industrial transformation, a process otherwise known as ecological modernization. This attraction lies mainly in the fact that residents, visitors and corporations prefer clean air, water and soil as a milieu to invest their resources in. Municipal governments can use city branding as an important instrument to force off such a transformation, if it is taken as a point of departure for the adoption of a strategy to which they are deeply committed and for the benefit of which they are willing to deploy their various policy instruments. In the literature on ecological modernization, five different pathways for industrial transformation in cities have been identified and these have been matched with city branding practices. In this contribution, the abovementioned conceptual framework is further detailed and specified to account for a variety in types of secondary and tertiary sector industries. In the empirical sections, all cities in the Chinese provinces Hubei and Hunan, where the transition from manufacturing to services is typically most pressing, are examined in terms of their industrial structures, pathways to industrial transformation and city branding choices. The results indicate, inter alia, that further subdivision of the secondary and tertiary economic sectors is useful in understanding key features of the transformation, and that different sub-pathways affect tradeoffs between economic expansion and ecological preservation differently. Branding practices among Hubei and Hunan cities also indicate that some industries are more easily embraced and utilized than others in establishing brand identities and adopting popular city labels. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Branding the eco-city: Rhetoric or reality?)
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