Word of CEO

The work of many years has readied us for an era of crisis

While COVID is slowly moving away and other unrest is increasing, the case for moving beyond division mounts and mounts. We have been hard at work for many years on a nature- and people-inclusive response. As part of nature-based solutions, Commonland’s founding purpose was to create an action driven common language and practical structure to unite groups with distinct holistic landscape management and restoration agendas: the conservationists, farmers, experts, entrepreneurs, community organisers, business, governments and finance professionals.

We now have evidence that this language and systematic approach works. The uptake of the 4 Returns Framework is accelerating worldwide – this year endorsed by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and recognised by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, in the report ‘4 Returns for Landscape Restoration’ co-published with Landscape Finance Lab, Wetlands International and IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management. As you’ll see in this report, the 4 Returns enables an increasing number of landscape projects to recognise themselves as a single movement, able to continuously learn from each other to pioneer regenerative agriculture and holistic landscape restoration.

A plethora of conferences – such as the UN’s 26th Conference of the Parties (CoP 26) in Glasgow, CoP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, World Food Summit and World Economic Forum – showed biodiversity has inserted itself firmly into the global conversation. Restoring landscapes and conserving biodiversity are now not only seen as a necessity, but as something that delivers long-term economic value – while degradation means increasing risks – thus is worth considerable investment.

Step by step, carbon pricing is also maturing. Innovative mechanisms – such as the Verified Carbon Standard and Gold Standard – mean regenerative farmers and conservation organisations are able to receive payment for the protection and restoration work they do that also stores carbon. This provides more landowners and farmers with the means to transition to protect nature and regenerative farming, and investable opportunities for our partners in the medium term.

I’m not of the tribe that says all our changes must take place within the next ten years. We do have time. But I do believe that as crises multiply – now with a war in Europe added to them, the search for ecological solutions will become more urgent. These solutions are already underway in the landscapes we work in with our partners. Wetlands International, Landscape Finance Lab, WWF, The Nature Conservancy, IUCN, the 1000 Landscapes for One Billion People partnership, 4 Returns Labs and wider adoption of 4 Returns framework all mobilise attention and action to holistic land restoration. As a worldwide learning community, we’re able to demonstrate what is working, and share lessons where approaches have failed. Our sharpened understanding powers a global movement.

It is the work of many years that has made us ready to respond to this era of crises. For all the support we receive, for all the collaboration and trust of our partners, we’re deeply grateful. The stakes for continuing our work have never been higher, that we have such a wide community united in holistically restoring landscapes is heartening indeed. It bodes well for the generations of work to come.


Willem Ferwerda – CEO
March 2022