News from the Top

Making the Business Case for Sustainability: If Not Us, Then Who?


Urban place management organizations (UPMOs) are traditionally more sustainable than their sprawling suburban counterparts due to, among other factors, their density, transit access and location efficiency. However, a sustainable urban district rarely happens on its own volition and requires advocacy and leadership by the UPMOs that manage them.  

The 2021 Sustainability Top Issues Council set out to make the business case that UPMOs have a responsibility to take the lead on addressing the sustainability and resilience issues in their urban districts. We wanted to demonstrate that the investment pays economic, environmental and social dividends for the UPMO and the urban community. The Council illustrates that investing in sustainability is an economic development tool with the potential to create jobs, preserve resources, enhance value, and increase the market value of a district by elevating it as a leader.  

“I just don’t have the staff, expertise or resources to work on sustainability or climate change.” 

The Council heard this repeatedly from many UPMOs and in fact, according to a survey we conducted in late 2020 for our report, 75% of the responding UPMOs indicated they do not have a formalized commitment to sustainability in their district. For our report, we worked to make the case that a UPMO can’t afford NOT be a player in the sustainability realm – they risk leaving cost savings, competitive advantage and other economic advantages on the table. Regardless of UPMO size and budget, compelling benefits of engaging in sustainability include: 

  • Saving on UPMO operational costs 
  • Creating competitive advantage to attract workers, residents and financing to downtown businesses 
  • Encouraging local workforce opportunities  
  • Gaining access to potential new UPMO funding sources 
  • Establishing cooperative purchasing power 
  • Elevating the value of a thriving urban enter 
  • Addressing environmental issues and social equity 

UPMOs are well positioned to be the strategic leaders leading the charge to address sustainability and resilience in their districts. The Council’s report shows that regardless of their size, they can be the common thread that brings together the stakeholders to benefit their districts and we anticipate that this report will inspire UPMO professionals to act on some of the ideas presented within the context of the urban environments they manage.  

The Top Issues Council report, Sustainability & Urban Place Management, is available on IDA’s publications page. All Top Issues Council reports are free for IDA members.