Willem Ferwerda

Executive Fellow Business & Ecosystems

Willem Ferwerda (1959) studied tropical ecology and environmental science in Amsterdam and Bogotá and has a background in non-profit as well as profit organisations. He has worked in several (tropical) countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia on tourism, conservation and restoration of ecosystems. From 2000 to March 2012 he was director of IUCN Netherlands, the Dutch office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the largest international union of nature organizations, states and scientists. Under the Ecosystem Grants Programme, IUCN NL financed more than 1,500 local projects in 40 tropical countries.

Under Ferwerda IUCN NL put biodiversity on the agendas of business and government in The Netherlands, strengthened the Dutch nature conservation network and introduced the UN study ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’’ (TEEB) to the business community in the Netherlands. In 2005 he founded Leaders for Nature, an international business network on biodiversity and ecosystems. A year later he convened 80 CEOs to signing an open letter to the Dutch government, which led to the creation of the governmental Taskforce on Biodiversity and Natural Resources. His efforts resulted in 2010 to an agreement on biodiversity between VNO-NCW (Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers) and 35 nature organizations. As change agent and connector, Ferwerda is looking for new (business) opportunities where ecosystems can be included in a positive way in people’s thinking and acting. ´We are living in an economic world where disconnection between man and nature has become the norm. The need to reconnect with nature will be our utmost challenge. Based on this systemic thinking a real sustainable economy can be achieved´. Ferwerda: "Man's impact on ecosystems is devastating and a serious threat to our economy and human wellbeing. See the NASA introduction video. It is also about restoring our soil. 'The Value of Soil' shows you in snapshot, why restoring soil is a no brainer. Satellite images of the Google/NASA/Time Lapse project makes this visible over 35 years".

Ferwerda is also appointed Special Advisor Business & Ecosystems at the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, (Switzerland). He holds board or advisor positions at several institutions such as the World Land Trust (UK), the Charles Darwin Foundation (Galapagos, Ecuador), the Lippe-Biesterfeld NatureCollege Foundation (NL) and is ambassador of the Dutch Platform on Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Economy. Ferwerda is also member of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration.


Founded by RSM, the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management and the COmON Foundation, he established Commonland, first started under the name Ecosystem Return Foundation. Commonland has the ability, the network and trust to successfully scale up existing ecosystem restoration projects by developing companies that will generate investment returns. Its goal is to contribute to the Bonn Challenge, a multinational agreement to restore 150 million hectares in 20 years. In 2009 Ferwerda provided financial and institutional support to John D. Liu, the Chinese-American filmmaker on restoration and director of the EEMP. John and Willem decided to continue working together in Commonland. John's work is known worldwide from prize winning documentaries, like Green Gold in 2012. More information about Commonland can be found in this brochure.

Pauline van der Meer Mohr, President of the Executive Board of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, says the following in support of Commonland:
“Most of the top management journals remain focused on the firm, not the system. It’s essential for managers and academics to take a more systemic approach to landscape restoration, in tandem with the natural sciences and local people.”

Four Returns from landscape restoration

Ferwerda developed a model to engage industry and investors: four returns from landscape. In the documentary Green Gold 2 (2014) the four returns model is explained. A short explanation is given 

Four Returns (video 4.55min.)

[Dutch] Speech at Cleantech Tomorrow 2015 congress (video 28 min.)

Hope in a Changing Climate (7 minutes)

One minute videos

Our one minute videos of Ethiopia, China, South Africa, Rwanda and Mexico give you a good impression.

For more information: Commonland.

About TEEB: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity is a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward).

For more information on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, Media & Public Relations Manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

See also: RSM names Willem Ferwerda Executive Fellow Business & Ecosystems


RSM students challenged to find the business case for restoring ecosystems

“You should be careful what kind of companies you choose to work for,” was the warning for business students given by ecologist Willem Ferwerda at a recent Q&A session ‘The Economics of Ecosystems’, organised by Sustainable RSM, the sustainability initiative at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

Continue to read here.
For podcasts, see here.

Contact: wferwerda@rsm.nl