Willem Ferwerda

CEO and Founder

After studying tropical ecology, agriculture and environmental science in the Netherlands and Colombia, Ferwerda (1959) worked as an entrepreneur in eco-tourism in Europe and Latin America. From 1995 to 1999 he managed a Rainforest Conservation Fund at IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Between 2000-2012 Ferwerda was executive director of IUCN Netherlands: he executed an ecosystem grants program with a project portfolio of more than 1,500 projects in 40 tropical countries. In 2005 he started Leaders for Nature, an international business network on biodiversity and ecosystems in the Netherlands and India. He convened 80 business leaders to sign an open letter, stressing the need for pro-biodiversity policies. This led to an agreement between the Dutch Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW) and nature organisations in 2010. In 2012 he designed the 4 returns business framework for ecosystem restoration. To make it happen he founded Commonland in 2013 together with experts and a private investor.

Ferwerda is currently CEO of Commonland, as well as executive fellow business & ecosystems at the Rotterdam School of Management – Erasmus University and leader of the Thematic group Business and Ecosystem Management of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (CH). Further, he serves as board member and advisor of a number of international institutions. Ferwerda is known as an entrepreneurial people manager who prefers to solve complex multi-stakeholder processes in rural areas to create positive change for people and nature. In 2016 Ferwerda headed the Top 100 Sustainability List of the Netherlands.