Revitalizing communities and regenerating landscapes offers tremendous opportunities for society and business
Now more than ever, the world needs viable solutions based on social and ecological needs, science and entrepreneurship. For this to happen, we need a practical holistic approach that everybody understands. We created the 4 Returns framework to be that common language.
As initiator, catalyst and enabler of large-scale and long-term restoration initiatives, Commonland is on a mission to transform degraded landscapes into thriving ecosystems and communities based on sound business cases and aligned with international policies and guidelines.
Large-scale, long-term restoration
Since 2013, we have worked tirelessly to build a universal proof of concept that brings farmers, landowners, entrepreneurs, communities, nature organisations and legislators together to create real returns on investment per hectare. Called 4 Returns, this framework is capable of initiating, organising and following through on large-scale and long-term restoration initiatives that integrate ecology, land use and business.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
We are doers, not dreamers. Together with our partners we are committed to transforming 100 million hectares of degraded land into thriving ecosystems and communities by 2040. That’s an area twice the size of Spain – ambitious, but with the right partners and focus, definitely achievable. By supporting on-the-ground initiatives with our 4 Returns framework we believe we can contribute significantly to all UN Sustainable Development Goals and Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).
Founded by ecologist Willem Ferwerda and entrepreneur Wijnand Pon, and recognised and supported by a wide range of partners, Commonland currently comprises an international expert team of scientists, conservationists, farmers, facilitators, ambassadors and thinkers. We work together closely with an ever-growing group of partners in worldwide landscape projects.
Founder and CEO
Bas van Dijk
Studied earth sciences and economics
Commonland’s holistic yet pragmatic way of working towards sustainable change excites me. We work with all the different stakeholders in a landscape and focus on building bridges, taking into account the local context and working with them to develop robust solutions that address the issues at their root.
Background in environmental sciences and economics
Restoring landscapes can’t be done overnight. It needs patience, determination and the acknowledgement that it will take a good 20 years and a total system change. It is important to focus on small wins, trust the process and create trust among partners while promoting the shift towards regenerative businesses.
Dieter Van den Broeck
Labs manager 4 Returns Labs - Design strategist and facilitator
Landscape finance expert
Jacqueline de Ligt
Erica ten Broeke
Impact & learning officer
Head of Global Policy
Nadine de Vogel
Senior communication manager
Kyra van den Hil
Chief Operations Officer
Director - Landscape Development & Support
Roos van der Deijl
Tools & platform developer
Design strategist and facilitator
Mariken van den Boogaard
Head of Marketing and Communication
Director - Knowledge, Education, and Innovation
Junior project manager Marketing and Communication
Donor relationship expert
Willemijn de Iongh
Knowledge & learning manager
Stories & platform developer
Landscape Finance Specialist
John D. Liu
Bela Jankovich de Jeszenice
Secretary, executive board member
Gerard van Hengstum
Celine van Asselt
Advisor to the board
Maas Jan Heineman
Daniel Christian Wahl
Transformative Innovation, Whole Systems Design, Consultancy, Education, Futures, author of 'Designing Regenerative Cultures'.
International environmental policy
Advisor to the Environmental Information Center of the Ministry of Environment and Green Development, Mongolia.
Jesús Casas Grande
Occupied several high positions at the Central Spanish Government and former director of several National Parks.
Architecture, international policy
Former Minister of the Environment, Housing, and Urban Planning in Benin. Former Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.
Partner Corporate/M&A at Jones Day in Amsterdam. Former member and Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board of Baker & McKenzie Amsterdam.
Internationally recognized specialist and teacher in permaculture.
Ecology, policy, stakeholder management
Worked in ecology and conservation for 25 years. CEO of Wetlands International since 2004.
Business and eco-agro-technology
CEO of the Priva Group, a world leader in sustainable technologies for the indoor environment.
President & CEO of New Paradigm Institute and Hansoll Textile in South Korea.
Was senior partner of McKinsey & Company until 2011. For almost 30 years he served leading financial institutions in Europe and Asia.
Herman Rosa Chávez
Governance, environmental policy
Former Minister of Environment & Natural Resources, El Salvador. Launched National Landscape and Ecosystem Restoration Program.
Mehmet Serdar Sarýgül
Founding Partner & Chairman at BT Global Partners, former director of TEMA Foundation.
Economics of ecosystems
President and Board Chair of WWF-International. Lead UN reports: 'The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity' & ‘Towards a Green Economy’.
Dutch economist and former CEO of Rabobank & widely recognized authority on sustainability, business and governance.
Professor in Land Use and Biodiversity at the Utrecht University, Copernicus Institute.
Restoration ecology, forestry
Deputy Director of Beijing Development Institute of Beijing University in China.
Landscape management, business
Agricultural & natural resource economist. Founder, President and CEO of EcoAgriculture Partners.
Soil and water conservation
Professor at the Institute of Soil and Water Conservation (ISWC), CAS/MWR and NWUAF.
Social and Political Sciences of the Environment
CEO, Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency. Academic Cradle to Cradle Chair for Innovation and Quality, RSM.
Development Finance, banking, sustainability
Chairman of IUCN, Dutch Chapter. Chairman of EDFI. Former CEO of FMO.
Sustainability and leadership
Member of the Wates Group Board and chair of its Sustainability Committee. Holds a Masters in Sustainability Leadership.
Environment, society & regenerative agriculture
Visiting Fellow at The Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University.
Business and Sustainable Food Systems
Associate partner at NewForesight and theme Director Sustainable Food Systems at TiFN.
Livestock Supply Chain Manager
Wide Open Agriculture
Monitoring & Evaluation Officer
Project development & communications
Marketing Operations Manager
Wide Open Agriculture
4 Returns Business cases
Catalina Casanova Arcas
Elvira Marín Irigaray
Danielle de Nie
Co-founder and Co-director
Wide Open Agriculture
Marina López Fernández
Communications and Marketing
Wide Open Agriculture
Farmland Portfolio Manager
Wide Open Agriculture
Project & business development
Business Development Manager
Wide Open Agriculture
John van Duursen
Co-founder and co-director
Anthony Maz Maslin
Founder and Chairman
Wide Open Agriculture
Anne Marie Majoie-Keet
Joint Company Secretary
Wide Open Agriculture
Coordinator "Destination AlVelAl" Project
AlVelAl / Commonland Foundation
Joint Company Secretary
Wide Open Agriculture
Fernando Bautista Expósito
Natural Zone Restoration
Laura Núñez Álvarez
Monitoring and Evaluation
Wide Open Agriculture
Miguel Ángel Gómez
Research and implementation of regenerative techniques in agricultural areas
Corporate Development Manager
Wide Open Agriculture
We firmly believe in working together, this is why we have an active network of proactive organisations, investors, experts, NGOs, governments and businesses advising us and working beside us to help us fulfil our mission.
“RSM is one of the founding partners of Commonland. Our collaboration with founder Willem Ferwerda started on 1 September 2012 when we appointed Willem to be RSMs first Executive Fellow Business & Ecosystems –this title is an accurate description of the two fields we aim to bridge. The collaboration deepened when we, together with Commonland’s Head of Science & Education, jointly obtained funding from the Erasmus-programme of the European Union in September 2016. Over the past 3 years, we have developed a number of massive open online courses, teaching cases and numerous guest lectures for business students, who tell us that their world view has broadened. Have a look at www.rsm.nl/enable for more information about this partnership, or watch this video to hear Willem Ferwerda explain why a business school should be interested in ecosystems and landscapes.”
Eva Rood – director, Positive Change Initiative. Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.
The Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) is one of the six scientific commissions of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The IUCN CEM is a network of volunteer experts, numbering 1,000, from around the world working on ecosystem management-related issues, for example climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, Red List of Ecosystems, fisheries and ecosystem restoration and services.
The Commission works closely with other IUCN commissions, such as the Species Survival Commission and the World Commission on Protected Areas, as well as IUCN regional offices and global thematic programs. The IUCN Global Ecosystem Management Programme (EMP) is the focal program for CEM, which provides secretariat and technical support. Commonland staff are taking part in CEM’s thematic working groups on ecosystem restoration and business involvement. The international secretariat is based in Gland, Switzerland.
IUCN CEM is one of the founding fathers of Commonland. The Commission offers Commonland guidance and advice and gives access to IUCN’s worldwide database on ecosystems and network experts.
“Wouldn’t we all want to live in a Blue Line SocietyTM?”
– John Loudon, CEO COmON Foundation
The COmON Foundation is a private, charitable fund, dedicated to the regeneration and re-greening of degraded areas worldwide, empowering communities, optimising land use and nurturing nature, based on innovative approaches. The COmON Foundation is Commonland’s cornerstone funder and has supported Commonland from the very start. They look forward to achieving more impact in the future!
The COmON Foundation believes that the only sustainable way forward is to strive for a Blue Line Society™. This society offers a better, less destructive balance; it means taking less from the Earth than the planet can give back. As a consequence, the greater the extent to which we achieve a Blue Line Society™, the healthier our planet becomes. Blue Line is a philosophy based on the principles of nature that create healthy income flows in the form of sustainable business for profit. In a Blue Line Society™, we will focus on locally available resources to fulfil the basic needs of both people and planet. We will restore and conserve nature, while at the same time creating economic and inspirational values.
“The Dutch Postcode Lottery has been raising funds since 1989 to support a fairer and greener world. Today it is the biggest charity lottery in the Netherlands, with at least 40 percent of the annual turnover going to over 100 non-governmental organisations. Since the start of the Lottery over €5.8 billion has been distributed to these beneficiaries.
Commonland has received € 3.7 million from the Dutch Postcode Lottery since 2016. In 2018 Commonland received an Extra Award of € 1,394,000 for landscape restoration in Baviaanskloof. We are glad that on behalf of the participants of our Lottery, we have been able to support Commonland in their important conservation work to recover landscapes in the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Australia. We believe that Baviaanskloof is a valuable addition to this. In 2018 I visited the Baviaanskloof myself, and I saw the positive effects of the ‘restoration of hope’ on the local community. We are also very proud that we can support Commonland in their sustainable approach with attention to nature and people, thereby strengthening both the ecology and the community.’’
– Margriet Schreuders, Head of charities, Dutch Postcode Lottery
“The IKEA Foundation cares for people and the planet. We want to be a force for positive change and have the possibility to make significant and lasting impact – today and for generations to come. I feel proud and humble to know that in partnering with Commonland, we have joined a like-minded, transformative community that is working to bridge economy and ecology.”
– Annelies Withofs, programme manager at IKEA Foundation
LGT Venture Philanthropy is a global venture philanthropy organization striving to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged people, contribute to healthy ecosystems, and build resilient, inclusive and prosperous communities.
They do so by combining the discipline of professional investment management with an in-depth knowledge of the sectors and regions they are active in. LGT Venture Philanthropy’s management, team and board members are dedicated to supporting their portfolio organizations and companies as they grow and scale their solutions.
The Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) Initiative is a global initiative on the economic benefits of land and land-based ecosystems. It aims to increase political and public awareness of the economic costs and benefits of healthy and productive land. The secretariat of the initiative is hosted by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
The initiative highlights the value of sustainable land management and provides a global approach for analysis of the economics of land degradation. It aims to make the economics of land degradation an integral part of policy strategies and decision-making by increasing political and public awareness of the costs and benefits of land and land-based ecosystems.
The ELD vision is to transform global understanding of the economic value of productive land based on both market and non-market values, and to improve stakeholder awareness for socio-economic arguments to improve sustainable land management, prevent the loss of natural capital, preserve ecosystem services, combat climate change, and address food, energy, and water security. The ELD methodological approach will translate economic, social and ecological knowledge into topical information and tools to support improved policy-making and practices in land management suitable for policy makers, scientific communities, local administrators and practitioners, and the private sector.
As mission partner, ELD provides Commonland access to its methodology and network of experts on the economics of land degradation.
The Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration was launched in 2003 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Forestry Commission of Great Britain. Since then, more than 25 governments and international and non-governmental organizations have joined. It is a proactive network that unites governments, organizations, communities and individuals with a common goal: restoring the world’s degraded and deforested lands.
The partnership was initiated with the purpose of catalyzing and reinforcing a network of diverse examples of restoration of forests and degraded lands that deliver benefits to local communities and to nature, and fulfill international commitments on forests.
Commonland is a member of the partnership with the objective to share information amongst the partnership members and to contribute to the goal of the Bonn Challenge with the 4 returns approach and concrete projects in the field.
Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.
“Landscape restoration is the cheapest and most efficient form of climate action, which places people and ecosystems in the center of development. Reviving degraded landscapes to amplify returns across sectors is a win-win idea.”
– Ibrahim Thiaw, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Executive Secretary of the Convention to Combat Desertification
“After years of testing the 4 Returns framework for restoring landscapes is building a sound concept that can go to scale. It will be a valuable tool to achieve the goals of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.”
– Tim Christopherson, Chair of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration.
Led by El Salvador and joined by over 70 countries from all latitudes, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2021–2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This action positions the restoration of ecosystems as a major nature-based solution towards meeting a wide range of national priorities.
The UN Decade calls for strong commitments and efforts by countries, the international community, civil society, businesses and others to achieve transformational ecosystem restoration. All ecosystems are involved, including forests, grasslands, croplands, wetlands, savannahs and other terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, marine and coastal ecosystems and, as appropriate, urban environments. This involves the restoration of at least 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030, realizing up to US$9 trillion in net benefits and alleviating poverty in many rural communities.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), established in 1972, is the voice for the environment within the United Nations system. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment.
UNEP work encompasses assessing global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends, developing international and national environmental instruments, and strengthening institutions for the wise management of the environment.
The mission of the United Nations Environment Programme on ecosystem restoration is aligned with the Bonn Challenge and with Commonland’s mission.
Landscapes are mosaics of natural and human-modified ecosystems. They provide multiple benefits, such as food, rural livelihoods and wellbeing, energy, fibers and building materials, medicines, ecosystem services and biodiversity.
As a form of integrated landscape management, ecoagriculture affirms the value of supporting these benefits in a way that reinforces synergies. In the past, the goals of ecoagriculture were often perceived to be in conflict. But many integrated landscape initiatives practicing ecoagriculture have shown how conservation, agriculture and development can co-exist or even positively affect each other.
This process requires collaboration or coordination between diverse stakeholders who are collectively responsible for managing key components of a landscape. EcoAgriculture Partners uses an integrated approach to enhance rural livelihoods, conserve biodiversity and improve agricultural productivity.
We help people in need. We do so right around the corner – and far away. Our mission is to prevent and relieve human suffering, everywhere. Protect lives and health, and safeguard respect for every human. That has been our mission for over 150 years. With particular attention to the most vulnerable people, those who cannot survive or whose health is endangered without help.
The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive.
Founded at its grassroots in the United States in 1951, The Nature Conservancy has grown to become one of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organizations in the world. Thanks to more than a million members and the dedicated efforts of our diverse staff and more than 400 scientists, we impact conservation in 72 countries across six continents.
The Rainforest Alliance is an international non-profit organization working at the intersection of business, agriculture, and forests to make responsible business the new normal. They are an alliance of companies, farmers, foresters, communities, and consumers committed to creating a world where people and nature thrive in harmony.
To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life is the mission of Wageningen UR (University & Research Centre). A staff of 6,500 and 10,000 students from over 100 countries work everywhere around the world in the domain of healthy food and living environment for governments and the business community at large.
The strength of Wageningen UR lies in its ability to combine the strengths of specialized research institutes and Wageningen University. It also lies in the combined efforts of the various fields of natural and social sciences. This union of expertise leads to scientific breakthroughs that can quickly be put into practice and be incorporated into education. This is the Wageningen Approach. As a mission partner, several Wageningen UR institutes and experts are involved in ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a CEO-led organization of forward-thinking companies that galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment.
Through its members, the Council applies its respected thought leadership and effective advocacy to generate constructive solutions and take shared action to drive business action on sustainability in the coming decade and beyond.
The WBCSD aims to be the leading voice of business that will support companies in scaling up true value-added business solutions and in creating the conditions where more sustainable companies will succeed and be recognized. Action2020 is the WBCSD’s platform for sustainability in action. It’s the roadmap for how businesses can positively influence environmental and social trends while strengthening their own resilience to issues like climate change, demographic dynamics and skills shortages. Based on the latest scientific consensus, Action2020 sets an agenda for businesses to take action on sustainable development to 2020 and beyond.
The WBCSD is a mission partner of Commonland, as both share the vision that companies and investors should be actively involved in ecosystem restoration and management. The work of Commonland contributes to WBCSD’s Ecosystems & Landscape Management Cluster.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries, with offices in the United States, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and more. More than 1,000 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain our natural resources — the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being. Their work focuses on seven critical issues at the intersection of environment and development: climate, energy, food, forests, water, cities and the ocean.
There has never been more money and political will for conservation and sustainability than in this decade. Yet investors and land managers are struggling to originate high-quality, de-risked, land use projects. The Landscape Finance Lab bridges this gap. It is a system to structure, de-risk, launch, and fund sustainable land use deals at landscape scale – covering millions of hectares, mobilising hundreds of millions of dollars and catalysing major impact – including carbon sequestration, food security, poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation.
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