4 Returns, 3 Zones, 20 Years

4 Returns is a science-based framework that is proven in practice. Developed in close collaboration with leading scientific institutes, business schools, farmers and experts, 4 Returns transforms degraded ecosystems by focusing on 4 key returns over the course of a single generation, or 20 years.

Guided by this framework, landscape teams all over the world can work with local farmers, land users and other stakeholders to develop landscape restoration companies and programs which can be implemented at scale and generate 4 returns: return of inspiration, return of social capital, return of natural capital and return of financial capital.

To us as a 4 returns community, these returns are inherent to landscape restoration and provide a concept that everyone can understand. People can further specify the 4 returns by identifying the spaces for these returns to materialize on the ground – a natural zone with forest and nature restoration; a combined zone with mixed agriculture and nature; and an economic zone with sustainable production.

By taking this approach, the complex issues of landscape restoration are broken down into the maximization of 4 returns in 3 landscape zones in 20 years. These  returns will be realized in the 3 zones of the landscape for every landscape restoration project. The restoration of such multiple interconnected zones as part of one holistic plan will create landscapes in which an increase of biodiversity and vegetation cover will go hand-in-hand with sustainably managed agricultural lands: mosaic landscapes.

In these landscapes, regenerative agricultural and economic zones will co-exist in an ecological balance.

The 4 returns, 3 zones, 20 years framework is a practical approach developed to help restore degraded landscapes. Guided by this framework, landscape teams all over the world can work with local farmers, land users and other stakeholders to develop landscape restoration companies and programs which can be implemented at scale and generate 4 returns: return of inspiration, return of social capital, return of natural capital and return of financial capital.

To us as a 4 returns community, these returns are inherent to landscape restoration and provide a concept that everyone can understand. People can further specify the 4 returns by identifying the spaces for these returns to materialize on the ground – a natural zone with forest and nature restoration; a combined zone with mixed agriculture and nature; and an economic zone with sustainable production.

By taking this approach, the complex issues of landscape restoration are broken down into the maximization of 4 returns in 3 landscape zones in 20 years. These  returns will be realized in the 3 zones of the landscape for every landscape restoration project. The restoration of such multiple interconnected zones as part of one holistic plan will create landscapes in which an increase of biodiversity and vegetation cover will go hand-in-hand with sustainably managed agricultural lands: mosaic landscapes.

In these landscapes, regenerative agricultural and economic zones will co-exist in an ecological balance.

4 returns

Inspiration

Return of Inspiration

Giving people hope and a sense of purpose.

Social Capital

Return of Social Capital

Bringing back jobs, business activity, education and security.

Natural Capital

Return of Natural Capital

Restoring biodiversity, soil and water quality.

Financial Capital

Return of Financial Capital

Realizing long-term sustainable profit.

Three Zones

Natural zone

Investment

  • Restoring vegetation
  • Planting native trees
    and clearing invasive species
  • Natural restoration
  • Limited maintenance


Return

  • CO2 capture, water, soil
  • Restored biodiversity
  • Forestry, hunting
  • Tourism

Combined zone

Investment

  • Restoring landscape
  • Planting usable trees
  • Restoring perennial vegetation and soil
  • Limited maintenance


Return

  • CO2 capture, water, soil
  • Partially restored biodiversity
  • Agroforestry, fruit trees, timber
  • Tourism

Economic zone

Investment

  • Regenerative agriculture, forestry, aquaculture
  • Real estate, infrastructure that fits the landscape
  • Ventures with positive impact on landscape


Return

  • CO2 capture, water, soil
  • Crops and products
  • New businesses, new collaborations
  • Economic development

20 Years

The 4 Returns framework functions in 20-year restoration cycles. 20 years because that’s the minimum period needed to bring back a landscape’s ecological foundation. Long-term commitment is essential.

Two online courses on 4 returns

A business approach to sustainable landscape restoration

Free Enroll

Certificates available

Business model innovation for sustainable landscape restoration

Free Enroll

Certificates available