The purpose of this research is to map the conceptual and theoretical foundations of sustainability and sustainable development, specifically how these concepts have been defined, conceptualized, and operationalized in the past, in effect to elucidate knowledge gaps and limitations of current research. This research uses an exploratory approach to textual discourse analysis to uncover the ways in which sustainability and sustainable development has been defined, conceptualized, and operationalized by the City of Toronto over the past thirty years. The findings of this research indicate that despite poorly defined conceptions of sustainability and sustainable development, operationalization has continued. However, many challenges to conceptualization and operationalization remain, such as those related to cross-scale coordination, understanding of social, economic, and environmental interdependencies, inadequate understanding of environmental conditions, and issues related to information sharing and reporting across institutions.
Keywords sustainability; urban sustainability; sustainable development; municipal policy; municipal decisionmaking; textual data analysis; content analysis; discourse analysis