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Commonland: 4 Returns from Landscape Restoration

Why is it so important that we restore degraded landscapes? The answer is really rather simple: we depend on healthy ecosystems (i.e. the whole of plants, animals, and micro-organisms, and their habitats) for our food and water, clean air, a stable climate, social and economic wealth, and even for our happiness and wellbeing. Underestimating the value of the landscape, or failing to understand it, can have major consequences.

Knowledge, technology, and financial means are all available: the time is right to create a landscape restoration industry. But the success of this industry hinges on greater commitment from the world of business and investors, on a leader stepping up to take charge of all these different stakeholders, and on a realistic long-term approach.

Through the ‘4 returns, 3 zones, 20 years’ approach', Commonland fills in the missing link. We are convinced ecosystem restoration starts with identifying new possibilities. A shared vision can give an ecosystem, such as a landscape, a new lease on life and generate employment and economic activity. A sustainable approach will not only restore the ecology of the land, but also society, keeping the living environment healthy for generations to come. Degradation of ecosystems leads to four kinds of losses: loss of biodiversity, loss of jobs, economic losses, and loss of purpose.

A well-thought-out land restoration plan with sustainable business cases will produce 4 different returns: return of inspiration, return of social capital, return of natural capital, and return of financial capital. To be able to realise these 4 returns, Commonland designates natural, combined, and economic landscape zones and, given that it takes an average of one generation to restore a landscape, uses a lead time of 20 years. 

Commonland not only shares its ample expertise relating to the 4 returns approach (while monitoring implementation of the approach), we also put it into practice by developing large-scale landscape restoration projects together with strong local partners and impact companies and we assist in acquiring grants and investments for restoration projects. In order to realise this, we act as a glocal network organization, combining the advantages of local knowledge, decisiveness and flexibility with global scale and reach, bringing together the best minds in ecology, restoration and business.

In South Africa, we work with important local partners Living Lands and Grounded, in the South of Spain we work with the AlVelAl farmer association and others, in Australia our partner is Wide Open Agriculture and in the Netherlands we are working with several local stakeholders including Natuurmonumenten. For more information on the different projects, see the links on the right hand side.

Main ambition, goal and mission

Commonland believes that landscape restoration offers tremendous untapped opportunities for sustainable economic development. To demonstrate this potential, we develop landscape restoration projects that are based on business cases. Commonland consists of a foundation and two impact companies: 4 Returns Projects and 4 Returns Partners. We are also creating an Academy for Business and Landscapes with our mission partners to educate the next generation of business leaders.

Our goal is to realize large-scale landscape restoration with local farmers, land-users and experts, based on sustainable 4 returns business cases. 

Our mission is to contribute to a large-scale landscape restoration industry, aligned with international policies and guidelines. 

And to align all stakeholders within a landscape, we work with a co-creation process: Theory U, developed by the Presencing Institute, at MIT.