The Triple Bottom Line of Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable farmland yields healthy investment returns while providing broader economic, social and environmental benefits.

The Power of Synergies

Many businesses and investments entail trade-offs between personal profits and wide-boundary costs by externalizing environmental, social or economic issues. However, triple bottom line investors recognize that some of the greatest returns are achieved when environmental, social and economic interests are aligned. For example, Farmland LP is more profitable due to the price premiums paid for organic food, and the reduced costs associated with not using non-organic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Our sustainable best-practices for managing farmland also reduces environmental pollution, enhances food quality and safety, and stimulates the local economy by creating quality jobs and keeping money spent on food within the local economy. Some things just make good sense.

Farmland LP manages farmland with best-practices that in addition to increasing profitability, yield the following benefits:


Climate change: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon dioxide.

Pollution: Keep the air, water and soil clean and free of pesticides and fertilizers.

Land and water: Develop healthy, rich soils to hold water and reduce the risk of flooding and erosion.

Biodiversity: Native habitat restoration, crop rotation and smart landscaping to recover and encourage beneficial plants and wildlife.


Fig. 1. Greenhouse gas reductions in farming include energy efficiency, sequestering of carbon in soil, and replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. In addition, local distribution channels are more resilient in the context of high transportation costs. Graphic is from Climate Friendly Farming.


Health: Sustainable farming contributes to better diets, and more nutritious and safer food.

Justice: The enhanced margins for local, organic food (due to price premiums or direct-to-consumer sales) support good farm jobs with fair pay and provide decent conditions for farm workers.


Fig. 2.  Graphic from a review paper by Benbrook et al. comparing nutrient density of foods grown using organic and conventional methods.


Return on investment: Local, organic food yields superior cash flow due to the production of abundant food with fewer costly inputs, plus organic and local price premiums.

Green jobs: Local food systems create local job growth in an essential line of work.

Multiplier effect: Replacing imports with local production keeps money circulating in the community.  Food expenditures in the U.S. are ~ $1 trillion per year.


Fig. 3. Yields of all kinds of foods from organic production systems are similar to chemical production systems.  Organic yields are divided by chemical yields, so values above one means organic yields are higher and values below one lower.  Graphic from Badley et al.

For further background and references see Farmland LP’s Sustainable Agriculture White Paper.