Restoring damaged ecosystems is new business model

Restoring damaged ecosystems is an important way to reverse the depletion of nature and should be the new model for business, according to a new publication by Willem Ferwerda, Executive Fellow Business & Ecosystems at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).

Ferwerda is an experienced international ecologist and environmental scientist with a background in non-profit and profit organisations. He has studied the US$ multi-trillion role that ecosystems and diversity of species play in the economy and society, and concludes that nature is at the heart of a sound and sustainable economy, forming ‘natural capital’ and acting as the basis of all wealth creation. Thus, it is an investor’s primary asset. 

But modern production methods and consumption patterns that generate jobs and wealth also degrade and destroy ecosystems. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the services provided by ecosystems are threatened.

“We need to keep ecosystems functioning for future generations, and this means we need to rethink sustainability and give priority to restoring ecosystem functions in our business model,” he says. These ecosystem functions have been estimated to be worth more than US$21–72 trillion annually, according to a study by the UN, The Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.

Restoration of 2 billion hectares possible
Restoration is already underway, thanks to NGOs, local farmers and government organisations, but those efforts need to be urgently scaled up. Scientists and conservationists know what needs to be done, but do not have the structure in place to implement it, says Ferwerda. The UN, World Resources Institute, IUCN and others estimate that 2 billion hectares of severely degraded land are suitable for rehabilitation through restoration, using the planting of forests and trees alongside other land uses – in the hope that biodiversity will be restored.

Ferwerda has worked in tourism, conservation and restoration of ecosystems on several continents and for 12 years was director of the Dutch office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the largest international union of nature organisations, states and scientists.

Ecosystem Restoration Partnerships
In his study, Ferwerda argues that it is time to establish a practical international mechanism that creates tailor-made 20-year Ecosystem Restoration Partnerships – following international guidelines – between businesses and stakeholders in co-operation with local people, farmers and NGOs. This could mean international restoration targets can be reached more quickly, private investments will return, and companies will learn that ecology is part of their core business.

The scheme has the potential to restore more than 200 millions of hectares within 10 years, says Ferwerda, who also recommends that coaching and problem solving is part of the partnership, and that scientific and NGO networks organise and monitor results, and oversee the introduction of new technologies where appropriate.

Download the publication
Willem Ferwerda’s publication Nature Resilience: Ecological Restoration by Partners in Business for Next Generations can be downloaded from RSM at this site and from the IUCN website at

Willem Ferwerda has invited the public to send him their feedback and reactions to the plan. Email or

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is ranked amongst Europe’s top 10 business schools for education and amongst the top three for research. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam - a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who carry their innovative mindset into a sustainable future thanks to a first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes. RSM’s executive education and alumni support services are also offered from its office in the Amsterdam Zuidas business district.

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

Executive education , Homepage , Newsroom