Ferwerda is CEO of Commonland, that he founded in 2013 with the Rotterdam School of Management -Erasmus University, the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management and the COmON Foundation. Commonland is a system developer of large integrated, holistic landscape management and restoration projects, bringing solutions at a landscape scale on biodiversity, carbon, regenerative agriculture, and communities. Ferwerda is involved as an advisor or board member with various international organizations in the field of nature, biodiversity, agriculture, and sustainability. He is executive fellow at the Rotterdam School of Management – Erasmus University, and theme lead at the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management. In 2016, he was awarded first place in the Sustainable 100, the list of Dutch people with the most influence on the environment and sustainability. In 2019 Ferwerda received the Dutch sustainable landscape award.
From 2000-2012 Ferwerda was director of IUCN Netherlands. There he was, among other things, leading large ecosystem grants programs, and initiator of Leaders for Nature, an international network of CEOs and prominent people from the business community addressing biodiversity conservation. It led to several agreements and policy changes with industrial networks. Between 1995 and 2000 he headed the Tropical Rainforest Grants Program of IUCN NL that supported hundreds local conservation and restoration projects in more than 40 countries. In 2012, Ferwerda left IUCN NL for a sabbatical in which he developed the 4 Returns Framework on Landscape Restoration.
Ferwerda studied biology, tropical agriculture and environmental science at the Free University and University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands and at the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia. He is specialized in the interaction between tropical ecosystems and agriculture, and system change management. Before joining IUCN, he worked in the eco-tourism industry and led expeditions in Latin America and Europe. The 4 Returns Framework for Landscape Restoration was published in 2015 by the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management and the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University) and further developed with other landscape experts and colleagues leading to an updated publication under the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in 2021.
Willem Ferwerda will provides a keynote speech on Theme 1 of TerraEnVision.