Five new sustainable business study cases for restoring landscapes
There is huge potential in restoring landscapes: around two billion hectares of land (two times the size of China) are degraded, but this can be addressed. Five new business case studies have been launched to help professionals to create social, cultural, and financial returns for remedying degraded landscapes. The teaching cases, which are a powerful means to engage business school students, are based in Spain, Iceland and Portugal, and have been prepared and written by the Case Development Centre at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).
Currently there are wide gaps between business and environment that hinder successful and wide-scale landscape restoration built on sustainable business cases. The gaps are in every aspect of such projects: in economy and ecology, theory and practice, global and local approaches. These newly developed business cases address these gaps and will be used in business and management education. They can also be downloaded from the RSM Case Development Centre’s online catalogue or studied by individuals in the free RSM MOOC, Business model innovation for sustainable landscape restoration, available on Coursera.
An answer to the call for education
Landscape degradation is a widespread international problem that has serious consequences for the environment and for every part of society. For some time, policy makers, business leaders and universities have been calling for high quality European education about land degradation and how to put together the large scale, multi-partner response that is required to counter it. The European Network for the Advancement of Business and Landscape Education (ENABLE), a three-year project between academia, private businesses, the public sector and NGOs, has answered that call with the launch of the five new interdisciplinary business cases.
These business case studies are aimed at business students and professionals, as well as anyone with an interest in business-driven landscape restoration. They are free for everyone to use.
There is great potential for land restoration on a large scale, but it is difficult to get such restoration projects financed. “Our case will contribute to a better understanding of such land restoration projects and thus facilitate finance coming forward,” said Dirk Schoenmaker, professor of Sustainable Finance at RSM, about the case he co-authored, Sustainable Finance for Landscape Restoration in Spain.
Cases from Spain, Iceland and Portugal
Two cases are about a Dutch organisation, Commonland, which scouts, launches, and manages business-driven landscape restoration projects. Its founder and CEO is Willem Ferwerda, the Executive Fellow for Business and Ecosystems at RSM. Another is about Arento Group which has 152 million employees and an annual turnover of €219 million.
- Commonland: The AlVelAl Project: the challenges of making business models and scaling them faced by the Dutch Commonland organisation in its landscape restoration project in the southern region of Spain.
- Arento Group in Spain: Towards a Sustainable Future: how an agricultural business tried to make the transition towards higher levels of sustainability.
- From Bare to Birch: Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration in Iceland: the transition from desertified land to resilient woodland that provides ecosystem services to people locally and beyond.
- Reborn from Ashes: The Alvares Project: the successful endeavours to halt the propagation of wild fires in Portugal and the challenges that come with it.
- Sustainable Finance for Landscape Restoration in Spain: strategically analyse and financially evaluate a large-scale landscape restoration project, in particular, using environmental and social returns in financial calculations.
Eva Rood, ENABLE project leader said: “Building bridges between ecology and economy and working on a common, transdisciplinary understanding of one of the worlds’ greatest challenges was amazing. It is tough, but it can be done; it affected people from very different backgrounds. From RSM students to nature conservationists, we have widened people’s world views and enriched the way they organised their business.”
ENABLE was co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union. It developed much-needed education tools for integrated landscape management based on sustainable business models. It is hoped that these education tools will assist professionals in gaining a new awareness and sets of skills, so they can create projects and enterprises that restore landscapes and return social, cultural, and financial returns to society while doing so.
Land degradation is undermining wellbeing
Worsening land degradation caused by human activities is undermining the wellbeing of two-fifths of humanity, driving species extinctions and intensifying climate change, says the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an independent intergovernmental body. Degradation of land is linked to other major contemporary issues that Europe must tackle, including climate change, food and water security, and a decline of biodiversity. These problems are directly related to well-being, security, poverty, and migration. This makes restoring and conserving landscapes one of the most important tasks of our time.