Exploring urban sustainability understanding and behaviour: a systematic review towards a conceptual framework

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5 Citations (Scopus)
203 Downloads (Pure)


Social, environmental, and economic problems related to urban living have surpassed the agenda of policy and decision-makers as well as general public opinion in recent decades. To address urban and environmental issues, it is pivotal to examine how people think, feel, judge, and act with respect to sustainability. While some prominent theories exist and various attempts have been made to propose synthesized models, there are still gaps and discrepancies within the literature of environmental psychological theories. As such, the aim of this paper is to critically review the literature by focusing on a few of the most influential environmental, prosocial, and psychological behaviour theories, which include Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB), Norm Activation Theory (NAT), Value-Belief-Norm Theory (VBN), and the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP). The Scopus database has been searched systematically for the relevant studies. This paper concludes that an integrative approach to urban sustainability understanding and behaviour is needed. A framework is presented that consists of three layers of clustered components: (1) internal socio-psychological determinants, (2) personality traits, and (3) influencing external factors such as social, cultural, economic, and institutional factors. The model proposed in the study provides opportunities to further develop theoretical approaches and establish new measures of an Urban Sustainability Understanding and Behaviour assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1139
Pages (from-to)1-33
Number of pages33
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: The first author would also like to thank his sponsor, The Ministry of National Education, Republic of Turkey, for funding his doctoral studies at the University of Birmingham under scholarship of Higher Education. C.D.F.R. and D.V.L.H. received the financial support of the UK EPSRC under grant EP/J017698/1 (Transforming the Engineering of Cities to Deliver Societal and Planetary Wellbeing, known as Liveable Cities) and EP/P002021 (From Citizen to Co-innovator, from City Council to Facilitator: Integrating Urban Systems to Provide Better Outcomes for People, known as Urban Living Birmingham).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Attitude
  • Awareness
  • Environmental concern
  • New ecological paradigm
  • Perception
  • Pro-environmental behaviour
  • Sustainable behaviour
  • Theory of planned behaviour
  • Urban sustainability understanding
  • Value-beliefnorm theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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