With the rapid increase in demand for agricultural products for food, feed and fuel, concerns are growing about sustainability issues. Can agricultural production meet the needs of increasing numbers of people consuming more animal products and using a larger share of crops as fuel for transport, electricity and heat, while still sustaining the natural resource base? In addition to economic models and learning from statistics and trends, there is a perceived need for decision support tools at global, field and plant levels and for the certification of best practices based on crop production ecology (CPE). This paper illustrates the need for and availability of a generic approach to sustainability principles, criteria, indicators and norms to ensure maximum efficiency in the use of resources such as land, water, chemicals and energy in crop biomass production at various levels of scale. The authors propose a method based on a transportable CPE approach, covering ranges of commodities and environments, to address choices in agricultural production: which crop to promote where, how it should be grown to optimize the efficient use of resources, how to certify the best practices and which crop properties need genetic improvement to make the best use of scarce resources in adverse conditions.