Willem Ferwerda was raised in Amsterdam and became passionate about nature when he was 8 years old. He studied biology, tropical plant ecology and agriculture, environmental science in the Netherlands (University of Amsterdam) and Colombia (Universidad Nacional, Bogotá).
He is executive director – initiator of Commonland, an international organisation founded in 2013 by experts, investors and entrepreneurs with the goal to scale up landscape restoration jointly with local stakeholders by developing existing landscape projects on the basis of healthy underlying business cases. In 2014 a documentary on Commonlands work was shown in the documentary Green Gold 2.
Ferwerda is executive fellow Business and Ecosystems at Rotterdam School of Management – Erasmus University and serves as Special Advisor in Business and Ecosystems to the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, the scientific commission of ecosystem managers of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 2012 het developed a four returns landscape restoration approach.
Between 2000-2012 Ferwerda served as executive director of IUCN Netherlands. He expanded the membership and built the most 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, now active also in India and Brazil. In 2006 Ferwerda convened, 80 business leaders from multinationals like Shell, 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. He 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. Ferwerda is board member and advisor of several institutions, such as the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund, IUCN, the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Degradation, the Charles Darwin Foundation (Galapagos, Ecuador), the World Land Trust (UK) and Princess Irene’s Nature College Foundation.