Commonland had the ambition to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land worldwide by 2040 – 5% of the then 2 billion hectares of degraded land on the planet. Encompassing 1 million hectares, Altiplano Estepario in Southern Spain was one of its successful restoration initiatives. However, in order to scale up the existing projects in Spain and in other parts of the world, Commonland first needed to convince local farmers that it was financially attractive for them to switch from conventional farming to sustainable farming combined with reforestation. 

Only after analysing the farmers’ financials could Commonland approach public and private investors with a concrete proposal for long-term funding. What should the financials for the farmers look like? What proposal could Commonland make to investors?

This case is part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) case series, developed by Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University. With a focus on SDG 15 (Life on Land), the case is also related to SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). Video learning materials and other resources about these SDGs are available at

1. Financially evaluate a landscape restoration project on the local level;

2. Strategically analyse a landscape restoration project from investors’ perspective;

3. Identify where the intersection between sustainability – in particular, landscape restoration – and finance lies;

4. Explore ways to incorporate environmental and social gains into current finance models;

5. Understand the concept of systemic change and explore the barriers, risks and opportunities of responsible / impact investment.

This case is targeted at Master students (MSc or MBA) and executive students of finance or sustainability related studies. It is also suitable for practitioners in the field of investment or ecology. In particular, the case serves the following two types of audiences:

1. The main problem deals with the financial-economic attractiveness for farmers to switch from conventional farming to a sustainable form of farming combined with reforestation. This part of the case aims at people having a minimum finance background, knowing the basic concepts of Net Present Value (NPV) etc., for example, finance students or practitioners.

2. There is also an institutional question embedded in the case about designing a landscape restoration project to make it more ready for investment. This question aims at people with a more general business background, such as management students (postgraduate or MBA), project or general managers, and ecologists or environmentalists who have business responsibilities.

Sustainable finance; responsible investment; impact investment; institutional investor; net present value; cash flow; financial evaluation; financing model; financial viability; agriculture; land; farmer; scaling; sustainability

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