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Sustainability Buckets: A Flexible Heuristic for Facilitating Strategic Investment on Place-Dependent Sustainability Narratives


  • Barbara Ribeiro

    (AgResearch, Hamilton 3214, New Zealand)

  • James A. Turner

    (AgResearch, Hamilton 3214, New Zealand)


This article presents a heuristic framework to help respond to gaps in knowledge construction in sustainability transitions. Transition theory publications highlight concerns ranging from contentious understandings of sustainability to the need for generalisable conceptual frameworks around how place specificity matters in transitions. The heuristic presented here is a flexible framework for developing place-dependent narratives of sustainability transitions grounded in investment choices. The sustainability buckets development resulted from the abduction and retroduction methods. It was also underpinned by a praxis-oriented mechanism from business (‘strategic investment buckets’), a transition theory conceptual framework (‘the multi-level perspective’—MLP), and a social sciences heuristic (‘sustainability cultures’). The sustainability buckets resulted from synthesising the critical literature with empirical findings drawn from two case studies in New Zealand. The heuristic proved helpful to navigate, organise, and code meanings and understandings of sustainability in the New Zealand agri-food context. It also helped facilitate dialogue with research participants from different backgrounds, such as government and business. The heuristic was designed to transform, remaining fit for purpose as transitions evolve. This article suggests the sustainability buckets could be used to enable investment opportunities for upscaling, reproducing, and transplanting transitions happening in distinct sectors and high-level systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbara Ribeiro & James A. Turner, 2021. "Sustainability Buckets: A Flexible Heuristic for Facilitating Strategic Investment on Place-Dependent Sustainability Narratives," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(16), pages 1-18, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:13:y:2021:i:16:p:9367-:d:618375

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    References listed on IDEAS

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