The increasing cultivation of energy crops for biofuel production has significantly altered the focus of the traditional agricultural sector. But the impact of biofuel production and use is not merely an agricultural one. Even more importantly, it is an issue, which – by demanding a trade-off provocatively labeled as ‘food vs. fuel’ – likely promotes inequitable conditions and the social conflict of different (basic) needs in north and south. Within this context, the dominant argument criticizes the growing demand for biofuels in the north to compromise food security and sovereignty in the south. It thus remains questionable, whether the production of biofuels can meet its promise of sustainable progress, if the western standard of mobility so offensively confronts the demand for sufficient food in parts of the developing world. In order to address these trade-offs and conflicts, objective of this paper is the introduction of a conceptual framework of socio-environmental services. By expanding the construct of environmental services to explicitly include the social dimension, it shall accommodate for the fact that the provision of environmental services is often embedded in a complex system of global (economic, ecological as well as social) interdependencies. Recently, the concept of payments for environmental services (PES) has received much attention with respect to its potential contribution to both environmental sustainability and the economic alleviation of poverty. By linking the idea of payments for socio-environmental services (PSES) to the three functions of justice (i.e., procedural, distributive, and compensative), its beneficial impact may be more fully tapped. Consequently, the paper shall help to answer the question, how global resources (natural as well as financial) can most efficiently and equitably be allocated, given the constraints imposed by the meta-objective of sustainability – including, e.g., the protection of ecosystems, climate change mitigation, energy security, social justice, or poverty alleviation.