An approach to holistic landscape restoration that benefits everyone involved

The success of any holistic landscape restoration initiative relies on a wide range of stakeholders being involved in the conception, planning and implementation of a shared landscape plan. That’s why it’s important to bring them together at the outset. Everyone – including farmers, people who live in the landscape, business owners, nature organisations and many others – has their own point of view and different ways of perceiving a landscape. When they come together to listen to each other’s experiences and perspectives, they begin to recognise they have a shared interest in living and working in healthy ecosystems. The 4 Returns framework guides stakeholders over time as they collaborate to restore their landscape. 

What are the 4 Returns?

Many serious issues facing the world, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, food security and mass migration, can be traced back to degrading landscapes. Our 4 Returns framework tackles the four main losses associated with land degradation – loss of hope, social networks, biodiversity and economic value – and aims to regenerate the landscape to create 4 Returns instead:

Return of Inspiration

Giving people hope and a sense of purpose

Social return

Bringing back jobs, education and social connections

Natural return

Restoring biodiversity and soils for healthy and resilient landscapes

Financial return

Realising long-term sustainable income for communities

Working with the landscape 

In a landscape, we identify three zones. This helps us to imagine how different purposes can co-exist.

Natural Zone

The natural zone provides resilience against climate change, disease, and other threats. The aim is to regenerate a landscape’s ecological foundation by restoring native vegetation, natural wildlife habitats, and water availability. This helps to boost and protect biodiversity over time.


Combined Zone

In this zone, sustainable economic production and ecological regeneration are combined. Natural and economic activities can co-exist and strengthen each other. Regenerative agriculture, agroforestry, rotational grazing, and sustainable aquaculture or fisheries are examples of this. This zone busts the myth that we need to choose between nature and agriculture. 

Economic Zone

The economic zone delivers sustainable economic production with dedicated areas for value-adding activities, such as processing. Examples of economic zones are urban areas, industrial complexes, and monocultural plantations. 

Making it happen: the 5 elements

Our approach breaks down the overarching ambition for a landscape into bite-sized steps. Implementing these five elements delivers maximum impact across the 4 Returns:

  • Establish a landscape partnership 
  • Reach a shared understanding 
  • Create a shared vision and build a landscape plan 
  • Ensure effective implementation 
  • Develop impact monitoring and learning 

The process is not linear: each element can be repeated, taken step-by-step, or overlapped with others.

4 Returns for healthy landscapes: at a glance

Want to learn more about the 4 Returns?

The 4 Returns framework provides the foundation for successful landscape restoration in the long term by enabling stakeholders to engage with each other, form partnerships and create a shared vision. You can learn more about the 4 Returns and how to apply it in your local context by visiting our 4 Returns Learning Network.

Publication: The 4 Returns Framework for Landscape Restoration

You can also learn more about how the 4 Returns Framework can help us to restore landscapes worldwide by reading our 4 Returns Publication in English, Spanish or Arabic

4 Returns Framework for Landscape Restoration

This report delves into the 4 Returns framework for landscape restoration: a practical, systems change framework that can be used by landscape stakeholders to undertake holistic landscape restoration. The framework seeks to balance competing stakeholder demands in a mosaic of different management approaches and business cases, creating inspirational, natural, social, and economic returns.

El Marco de los 4 Retornos

El Marco de los 4 Retornos para la restauración de paisajes es una herramienta práctica y probada de cambio sistémico que permite a las partes interesadas aplicat un enfoque paisajístico. Este marco aspira a equilibrar el conjunto de demandas enfrentadas de las distintas partes interesadas mediante el uso de un mosaico de enfoques de gestion diferentes que permita obtener toda una variedad de retornos naturales, sociales y económicos.

استخدام إطار عمل ذو 4 عوائد لاستصلاح المناظر الطبيعية

You can read the 4 Returns Framework for Landscape Restoration in Arabic by clicking the arrow below.