Willem Ferwerda

Willem Ferwerda

Willem Ferwerda (1959) studied biology, tropical plant ecology and agriculture, environmental science at the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Colombia (Universidad Nacional, Bogotá).

Executive Fellow Business & Ecosystems

In 2012 he was appointed executive fellow Business and Ecosystems at Rotterdam School of Management – Erasmus University and as Special Advisor in Business and Ecosystems to the Commission on Ecosystem Management, the scientific commission of ecosystem managers of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Between 2000-2012 Ferwerda served as executive director of IUCN NL, the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands. He expanded the membership and built an influential national IUCN office, while creating the Ecosystem Grants Programme, a fund that financed 1,500 local conservation projects in 40 tropical countries. In 2005 he founded Leaders for Nature, an international business network on biodiversity and ecosystems to put biodiversity on agendas of government and business. In 2006 Ferwerda convened, 80 business leaders from multinationals like Shell, ING, Rabobank, DSM, Unilever, KLM and many others, to sign an open letter to the Dutch government, which led to the Dutch governmental Taskforce on Biodiversity and Natural Resources. In 2010 he realized an agreement concerning ecosystems and biodiversity between the Dutch Confederation of Industries and nature organizations. It resulted in the platform on Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Economy. Before joining IUCN he hold management positions in an international tourism company organizing expeditions to remote areas. He has worked in Latin America, Africa and Europe and is an expert in multi-stakeholder processes.


Ferwerda built a reputation of an innovative entrepreneurial strategic ecology expert, good in building bridges and aligning policies between experts, business and governments to achieve a common goal. In 2012 Ferwerda developed the 4 returns framework on landscape restoration: inspiration, social and natural returns will give sustainable financial returns to restore degraded ecosystems. In 2013 the international organisation Commonland was founded in 2013 by experts, investors and entrepreneurs with the goal to scale up 4 returns landscape restoration jointly with local stakeholders by developing existing landscape projects on the basis of healthy underlying business cases. Another goal is to start a business centre on ecological restoration at RSM.

Ferwerda is CEO of Commonland, and board member and advisor of several environmental institutions.


Ferwerda, W.H. (2015) 4 Returns, 3 Zones, 20 Years: A Holistic Framework for Ecological Restoration by People and Business for Next Generations. RSM/IUCN CEM.

Ferwerda, W.H. (2016): 4 retornos, 3 zonas, 20 años:–un marco holístico para la restauración ecológica por personas y empresas para las próximas generaciones.


Eva Rood, erood@rsm.nl