Limitations of institutional dimension in existing sustainability assessment tools: From the perspective of territory

Weixuan Chen, Ali Cheshmehzangi, Eugenio Mangi, Tim Heath, Jiapei Yu

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review


Cities face considerable fundamental sustainability challenges, and scholars have developed many sustainability assessment tools (SATs) to assess and address these problems. As an important pillar of the tools, the institutional dimension, though added to one of the main dimensions, needs to be stressed more in the existing studies, especially in the field of political geography. Territory, as one of the core concepts of political geography, is considered an essential practical perspective of institutional issues. This paper aims to clarify the limitations of the institutional dimension in SATs from the perspective of territory. Nineteen SAT tools are filtered and reviewed after refining the concept of institutional sustainability. Their categories and indicators are divided into four themes in order to clarify the intent of the institutional dimensions. After documentary analysis, we argue that the main shortcomings of the existing research are the need for more balanced integrality and spatial embeddedness of institutional indicators in the tools. The institutional dimension should be first considered before defining other dimensions through more detailed explanations than the existing one and should lay the roots in the specific institutional arrangements. This paper suggests that the preferential consideration for institutional dimension and the appropriate increase of its specific gravity can be considered in future SAT optimization and development. Some sociological approaches, like grounded theory, can be regarded as an introduction to form institutional indicators based on specific institutional arrangements. This study can provide an opportunity to improve the existing sustainability assessment tools or develop new tools to reflect more holistic understandings of institutional sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100217
JournalCurrent Research in Environmental Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Institutional dimension
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainability assessment tools
  • Territory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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