A model approach: building nature-based economies through rewilding

September 16, 2019

By generating jobs and revenue, the rewilding of Europe can revitalise economies and communities. Rewilding Europe’s innovative, enterprise-focused business models are helping to scale up the process.

The owner of Wildlife Portugal, Fernando Romão, at his wildlife watching hide in northern Portugal's Côa Valley. Wildlife Portugal is another of the cluster of small businesses in and around Faia Brava that has received a loan from Rewilding Europe Capital.
The owner of Wildlife Portugal, Fernando Romão, runs a successful business on wildlife photography and guiding in the Côa Valley.


Rewilding to the rescue   

Numbers of enterprise Rewilding supportAt Rewilding Europe, we want to see Europeans and European wild nature thriving alongside each other, not separated by fences or divided by human-wildlife conflict. If rewilding efforts are to have the best possible outcome, we need to explore how people can benefit from those efforts in a variety of ways, including economically.

Across all of our operational areas, Rewildng Europe is building a “business case for the wild“, providing financial assistance and expertise to local, nature-based entrepreneurs. By creating new jobs and revenue streams – ranging from bison rangers in Romania right through to sustainable forestry in Portugal – rewilding is helping to revitalise areas of Europe that are frequently characterised by economic stagnation, depopulation and land abandonment.


Enterprising endeavour

In comparison with many other parts of the world, there is still little awareness in Europe about the potential for develping businesses that engage with and support the conservation and rewilding of natural landscapes. In rural areas where the commercial value of wild nature is poorly understood, access to finance for enterprises working with nature is still extremely limited.

This is where Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) – Rewilding Europe’s enterprise loan facility founded in 2014 – continues to play a key role. By the end of 2018 it had disbursed loans totalling more than 1.3 million euros to 20 rewilding-related enterprises. REC has received finance from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, and continues to disburse 6 million euros’ worth of funds made available through the European Investment Bank’s Natural Capital Financing Facility (REC loans can range from thousands of euros right through to hundreds of thousands).


Investible and scalable models can accelerate Rewilding across Europe


Investible innovation

In its first phase, REC disbursed loans to enterprises that were mainly linked to visitor-oriented models. In 2017, the loan agreement with the European Investment Bank ushered in the second phase.

This evolution has seen us scale up our work, providing larger loans to rewilding enterprises across a wider range of sectors. These now comprise forest management, water management, private estates, wildlife management, offsetting and nature-based tourism.

Working within these sectors, we are making promising progress on the development of new, scalable business models. By making rewilding investible, such models – which encompass everything from the transformation of forests and restoration of peatland to wildlife photography and dam removal – are designed to amplify the positive impact of rewilding to the fullest extent possible.


Advisory role

As partner in a new EU-funded Interreg project, Rewilding Europe is now providing expertise and experience in building nature-based economies. This will lead to the creation of more enabling policy environments in four European regions (in Sweden, Spain, Germany and Belgium/the Netherlands).

Kicking off on August 1, 2019 and running through to July 2021, the project will see a total of eight partners develop action plans for the four regions. Examples of best practice will be shared, showcasing the development of nature-based economies as an innovative, viable and attractive strategy that can benefit both people and wild nature.

“Dynamic and contemporary wildlife and nature-based businesses can benefit local societies that are more closely tied to natural environments,” says Timon Rutten, Rewilding Europe’s Head of Enterprise. “We now need to make sure the right policies and access to finance are in place across Europe to allow more and more of such businesses to start up and grow.”


Can we help you?

As we take our nature-based enterprise work forward, Rewilding Europe is looking to collaborate with entrepreneurs, corporations, investors, governments and municipalities.

“We invite prospective enterprises that have the envisaged impact to contact us at any time” says Rutten. “We also look forward to strengthening our partnerships with the private sector, as we continue to develop investible rewilding models and provide finance to accelerate rewilding across Europe.”


Want to know more?

Much of this article was taken from a longer story entitled “A Model Approach”, which featured in Rewilding Europe’s Annual Review 2018.

We invite you to view this beautiful 88-page publication, which contains a wide range of insightful feature stories, stunning photography and illustrative infographics, showcasing the progress made in our own rewilding areas and the growth of Europe’s rewilding movement in 2018.

You can order your own hard copy of the Rewilding Europe Annual Review 2018. It is for free, except shipping costs.

Order Annual Review 2018


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