Finance and investment are crucial to meeting the goal of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of nature worldwide. 

Therefore, on the 5th of July, Commonland united a panel of experts for an in-depth exploration of the value of investment in long-term landscape restoration. The event was moderated by sustainable finance journalist Felicia Jackson and the panellists included financier and environmentalist Ben Goldsmith, Commonland’s CEO Willem Ferwerda, Executive Director at Dark Matter Labs, Indy Johar, MRV Manager at Gold Standard Foundation, Richard Iliffe, CEO of Wetlands International, Jane Madgwick and Founder of  Inspiration 4 Action, Astrid Vargas.  


Read below to learn more about the topic, the experts who joined and key points discussed at the panel.  


Why the finance sector should focus on landscape-based investments 

Currently, the world is spending at least $1.8 trillion per year on subsidies driving the destruction of nature, at the same time that one quarter of plant and animal species are threatened with extinction. Meanwhile, our natural ecosystems provide benefits of $125-140 trillion per year – more than one-and-a-half times the size of global GDP. It has never been more necessary to expand all forms of finance that work to protect and restore nature. 


Yet providing finance is not enough; often funding has not successfully restored landscapes. In fact, many restoration initiatives have exacerbated social precarities and worsened ecological conditions, focusing only on the symptoms of degradation and neglecting underlying issues of equity and justice driving landscape decline (Osborne et al, 2021). Such scenarios demonstrate the critical importance of investing in building trust with local communities and listening and learning from their experiences. 


“What I observe in the field with the farmers we work with is that they don’t want big investments, they’re afraid, they don’t trust…Why don’t we really start listening to each other, to the investors, to the farmers, with bigger ears? That would be a way to build trust to begin with.” – Astrid Vargas, Inspiration 4 Action 


Emerging themes at the Panel discussion included: 


  • Redefining value to move beyond a mere financial lens, to acknowledge key aspects such as supply chain resilience and integrity. 
  • Scalability must be identified in solutions, yet a local approach is fundamental to success.  
  • The power of deep listening to facilitate collaboration with local people and ensure restoration efforts create lasting, positive impact. 
  • The critical role of wetland ecosystems to planetary health, as enormous carbon sinks and diverse landscapes. 
  • A common language is required to align stakeholders – farmers, conservationists, financiers, and policymakers – and facilitate dialogue that all parties understand.  
  • The need to bridge between expectations for short-term financial return and the reality of long-term transformation.  
  • Re-establishing a connection to the natural world and the importance of returning inspiration and community in order to address the ecological crisis. 


“The greater the abstraction of capital from the problem, the poorer the quality of capital allocation. I think we have to start to talk about how you build capital closer to the problem, because that actually solves some of these problems.” – Indy Johar, Dark Matter Labs 


In conclusion, the conversation was led by a shared understanding that together we must find solutions to drive capital to restore nature – with urgency, at scale and with long-term positive impact. Importantly, a key take-aways were that to truly restore nature, investors must listen to the ecosystem and communities first Overall, the roundtable discussion highlighted the value of bringing diverse stakeholders together, building relationships and finding common ground in order to mobilise the solutions we so urgently need. There are no recording of this event, but we intend to organize more of these multi-stakeholder, in-depth panels in the future! 


The momentum has come to move beyond the valuing of mere financial values 

In the same week of the event, a new landmark IPBES report was launched stressing the importance of valuing the many benefits nature provides beyond financial gains.