Questions And Answers On Measuring Sustainability

Measuring sustainability is a challenge. At BASF, a group of data modelling experts has spent the last 25 years developing new methodologies to meet this challenge.


Dr Maria Stenull, from Global Sustainability & Product Stewardship at BASF's Agricultural Solutions division is responsible for AgBalance™. We asked her to answer 10 essential questions on AgBalance™.

Agricultural production is a complex system, the more you look into the depth and details, the more you broaden your view to the whole food chain from inputs, processes on the field, processing of food and feed, retailer and to consumers.

AgBalance™ assesses the sustainability of solutions and processes in agricultural production systems. It makes a holistic analysis of indicators from all three sustainability pillars - environment, society and economy. It aggregates all the individual elements of information into a single score result, showing the most sustainable option in relative terms.

There are 69 indicators based on the three pillars of sustainable agriculture, environment, society and economy. For example, water use or soil conditions are amongst the environmental indicators. Fixed and variable costs among the economic indicators and conditions for workers – wages and education – among the social indicators.

BASF provides agricultural solutions and if we want to  give our customers the best products to increase and secure their yields sustainably and meet the future challenges, analyzing sustainability in agriculture is a prerequisite.
Our business depends on understanding the needs of farming in the societal and political context. We then respond by designing solutions for sustainable farming in collaboration with our partners.

There are a number of established methodologies, each with a different focus that can measure progress in sustainable agriculture. AgBalance™ is an expert system from BASF, unique in its scope, depth and breadth of analysis. AgBalance™ is based on a huge data set, thanks to BASF's 15-years of experience with the Eco-Efficiency Analysis.

AgBalance™ is a global method for use in either regional or local assessments, using largely regional or local data. Of course, there is the assumption that all necessary modifications will be applied.

A series of AgBalance™ studies are due to be conducted for a broad range of key customers and stakeholders in the food and feed value chains, including manufacturers of crop protection solutions, distributors, farmers and retailers. Also beyond the actual food chain, organizations and decision makers in the area of agriculture and food production may have an interest in an AgBalance™ analysis.

Our goal is to facilitate informed decision-making to help develop solutions for sustainable agriculture. This will foster a rational dialogue on sustainable agriculture and help all parties interested, but also ourselves. For example, we will use AgBalance™ internally to identify areas in R&D, where we can contribute to sustainable agriculture. We will then use this knowledge, coupled with our technical capability in modern farming, to design more innovative, sustainable solutions for farmers.

We aim to publish as many studies as possible in order to share findings and results with those who are interested in sustainable agriculture. Some studies on internal processes of enterprises may contain business confidential data. In those specific cases, the data will not be published. All published studies will be reviewed by independent, expert third parties.

BASF will continue to monitor developments in sustainability assessment and enhance AgBalance™ accordingly, based on both findings from case studies and on feedback from stakeholders and partners.