Sustainability Science

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 303–319 | Cite as

Agro-environmental sustainability assessment using multicriteria decision analysis and system analysis

  • Julia C. BauschEmail author
  • Luis Bojórquez-Tapia
  • Hallie Eakin
Original Article


Transparency and reproducibility remain challenges for sustainability assessment, particularly in developing world contexts where formal scientific information is often limited. We posit that even in such contexts, sustainability assessment can be productive and informative if the underlying assumptions about sustainability are made transparent. Thus, the process of assessment can be as instructive as the results, if not more so. In this article, we describe and discuss how we combined multicriteria decision analysis and system analysis as a unified approach to sustainability assessment. This approach is transparent, practical, flexible, and reproducible; it also facilitates the development of recommendations for enhancing sustainability. We illustrate the approach with examples from a recent environmental sustainability assessment of irrigated commercial maize production in Sinaloa, Mexico.


Sustainability assessment Multicriteria decision analysis System analysis Agriculture Mexico 



The authors are grateful to Dr. Jorge Armenta, Dr. Daniel L. Childers (ASU), and Ing. Adalberto Mustieles for their support in this research; Sergio Bourguet (UNAM) for his help formatting the figures; and Allain Barnett and Dr. Arnim Wiek (ASU) for helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. We thank the interviewees and workshop participants who generously shared their time and knowledge. We also thank the reviewers for their valuable comments and contributions. The beginning stages of this research were supported by a Student Sustainability Fellowship from the North American Center for Transborder Studies-Southwest Consortium for Environmental Research & Policy. Fieldwork in summer 2011 was supported by a Neely Charitable Foundation Food and Agriculture Sustainability Research Grant. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0826871. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia C. Bausch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Luis Bojórquez-Tapia
    • 2
  • Hallie Eakin
    • 1
  1. 1.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad, Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad UniversitariaMexico, DFMexico

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