Transition towards and of sustainability: Understanding sustainability as performative

Anette Hallin, Tina Karrbom Gustavsson, Peter Dobers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Our purpose is to explore the concept of “sustainability” when understood from a performative perspective, i.e. as a concept that is filled with meaning across time. Drawing on a 10 year-long study of the digital footprint of Stockholm Royal Seaport, claimed to be northern Europe's largest sustainable urban development district, we show that “sustainability” emerged as the project became associated with particular places, projects, histories, and technologies. This means that “sustainability” was local in that it was situated in the particular spatial context of the project; temporal in that it was situated in a particular time; and political in that it expressed particular values and perspectives. The study contributes to explaining why “sustainability” remains—and always will remain—a contested concept, which is why sustainability transitions are complex. Consequently, we suggest that the transition towards sustainability always involves the transition of sustainability, something that needs to be acknowledged in order for a transition to actually become sustainable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1948-1957
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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