Capacity to Sustain Sustainability: A Study of U.S. Cities


  • XiaoHu Wang is professor of public administration at City University of Hong Kong. Previously, he was professor of public administration at the University of Central Florida. His research covers topics in financial management, performance management, environmental financing, and sustainability management. He is author of three books, including Financial Management in the Public Sector (3rd ed., M. E. Sharpe, forthcoming). E-mail:

  • Christopher V. Hawkins is assistant professor of public administration at the University of Central Florida. His research focuses on metropolitan governance, land use, and economic development. He has published in the Journal of Urban Affairs and the American Review of Public Administration. His current work is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. E-mail:

  • Nick Lebredo is a certified public accountant. He has obtained a Ph.D in public affairs at the University of Central Florida. He has taught college-level courses in economics, statistics, and business administration. He is interested in sustainability management in the public sector. E-mail:

  • Evan M. Berman is Distinguished University Professor and Director of the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at National Chengchi University (Taiwan), one of Asia's leading universities. His areas of expertise include public management, local government, and HRM. He is founding editor of ASPA's book series in Public Administration and Public Policy and is senior editor of Public Performance and Management Review. E-mail:


Why do some governments implement more sustainability practices than others? Based on a national survey of U.S. cities, this article finds moderate levels of sustainability efforts and capacity in U.S. cities; about one-third of the sustainability practices identified in this article have been implemented. The authors conclude that, first, capacity building is a useful conceptual focus for understanding sustainability implementation in U.S. cities. Capacity building involves developing technical and financial support and increasing managerial execution. Second, sustainability is strongly associated with managerial capacity, which includes establishing sustainability goals, incorporating goals in operations, and developing a supportive infrastructure. Third, getting stakeholders involved furthers the capacity for sustaining sustainability efforts. Citizen involvement is strongly associated with securing financial support for sustainability.