Rewilding Europe is delighted to welcome Sabine Hoefnagel as the newest member of its Supervisory Board. With an academic background in law and currently based in the UK, Sabine has focused on sustainability throughout her career, with 25 years’ professional experience in sustainability consulting across a broad range of sectors. We caught up with her to find out a little more about her background, her new role and her passion for rewilding and nature.
What are your thoughts on rewilding? Why does it appeal to you?
For me, rewilding is an incredibly inspirational and impactful approach to conservation. Having focused on sustainability throughout my career, I believe that the most pressing issues facing humanity today are climate change, biodiversity decline and social inequity. With its focus on nature restoration, climate change and social issues, rewilding’s holistic, action-oriented approach recognises that all three of these issues are interrelated and seeks to address them. So the appeal is obviously very strong!
I’m also a firm believer in collaboration, so rewilding’s multidisciplinarity also attracts me. In the rewilding space today you can see academics, practitioners, NGOs, citizens, businesses and an array of other stakeholders all working together to advance rewilding and its beneficial impact. That to me is very powerful.
Why did you decide to join Rewilding Europe’s Supervisory Board?
I have been looking for some time to contribute to solutions for a better world – I do this in my job, but I wanted another context. I was and remain deeply impressed and motivated by what Rewilding Europe has already achieved over the last 10 years, and quickly decided that I was keen to help the initiative grow further. These are exciting times for rewilding, and I’m very happy to be on board!
Can you tell us what you will be doing in your new role?
I see the role of the Supervisory Board as one of challenging, advising, steering, bouncing around ideas and stimulating discussion. In particular, I hope to contribute to discussions about collaborating with the private sector and the development of rewilding credits, which are now at the pilot stage and have enormous potential in terms of the scaling up of rewilding.
You have huge experience in sustainability consulting. How do you see yourself adding value to Rewilding Europe’s mission?
My career has given me an understanding of the private sector and what businesses are looking for when it comes to supporting climate change mitigation measures and nature-based solutions in general. More specifically I have experience of brokering collaborative relationships and also developing business strategy, which I think will be useful.
Do you expect to learn anything in your new role?
Yes, of course! I definitely have a lot to learn about nature conservation and rewilding. It will also be interesting for me to see a small, agile organisation with a big impact at work – I have worked for a large company for many years, so it will be a contrast. And I am also looking forward to learning from my fellow board members who are all experts in their various fields. I’m sure we will complement each other nicely.
With the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration kicking off this year, we now have an opportunity to make 2021-2030 a “rewilding decade”. How can we scale up rewilding to restore European nature meaningfully over the next 10 years?
This is a unique moment in the evolution of rewilding – the rewilding movement has now built real momentum and there is serious interest in it from everyday citizens, conservationists, businesses, other organisations, and policy makers. From a Rewilding Europe perspective, I think it’s important to stay true to the mission and remain largely focused on practical rewilding – to showcase how rewilding can be achieved in a European setting, and the benefits that it can bring to both people and nature.
To scale up rewilding in a meaningful way we will have to overcome various challenges. One of the most important is to prove that wild nature is investable – only when we do this will those carrying out rewilding, or thinking of rewilding, have the necessary financial incentive and support to deliver significant rewilding outcomes. We really need to make the financial case for rewilding, because at the moment other forms of land use, such as intensive agriculture, are typically more economically competitive.
We also need to manage people’s expectations. Rewilding is a slow, complex, multilayered process, which means it takes time. Sometimes it’s not possible to show quick results, even though there may be a demand for immediate evidence. And there will be practical challenges, I’m sure, but others are best placed to outline these.
Despite these challenges, I am very optimistic and determined that European rewilding is about to take a great leap forward, with Rewilding Europe playing a central role!
Where do you go to connect with wild nature? How important is this connection for you?
Nature is hugely important to me, and I interact with it in three main ways. Through my work I have been lucky enough to experience some amazing wild places around the world – from Guinea to Surinam to Madagascar. Every holiday I take is in nature, because I’m a big hiking fan – this has also taken me to many different countries, from Mexico to the west coast of Scotland. And last but not least, every weekend I try to walk in the countryside in Suffolk (a county in the UK). Nature keeps me grounded and gives me a fresh perspective on life, which is especially important when you work in a big city like London.
Learn more about Sabine’s professional experience and background in sustainability consulting on our team page.