Jan Derck van Karnebeek appointed as new chair of Rewilding Europe

April 9, 2021

Jan Derck van Karnebeek has been appointed as the new chairman of Rewilding Europe’s Supervisory Board. His extensive business experience will prove invaluable, particularly with upscaling, strategy and team building.

Wiet de Bruijn hands over the gavel to Jan Derck van Karnebeek as the new chairman of Rewilding Europe’s Supervisory Board.
Frans Schepers


An invaluable addition

Jan Derck van Karnebeek
Jan Derck van Karnebeek is the new chairman of Rewilding Europe’s Supervisory Board.

Rewilding Europe has appointed Jan Derck van Karnebeek as the new chairman of its Supervisory Board, with Wiet de Bruijn stepping down from the position after nearly a decade of service. Jan Derck’s array of business skills and huge commercial experience were gained during a highly successful 29-year career at Dutch brewing company Heineken. Such attributes will prove invaluable as Rewilding Europe continues its mission to make Europe a wilder place – his assistance with upscaling, strategy and team building will be particularly important to the initiative.

“I’m thrilled to be taking up this new position,” says Jan Derck. “Rewilding Europe has already made significant progress since it was founded in 2011 and has been instrumental in advancing rewilding. As we look ahead to the next decade, it is critical that we scale up and accelerate European rewilding to restore nature and enhance the benefits and solutions it provides. Rewilding Europe can and should play a pivotal and pioneering role, and I will work to support this.”


Scaling up rewilding

Rewilding is one of the best ways to help fix our climate, reverse biodiversity decline, and create a world that is more liveable for all. But, as Jan Derck appreciates, we must act now to ensure its positive impact is delivered in time and at the necessary scale. As such, this is a critical moment for both rewilding and Rewilding Europe.

“Rewilding’s progressive, holistic, action-oriented approach and inspirational narrative is proving increasingly compelling to citizens, academics, business, and policymakers,” says the new chairman. “Scaling up now will depend on more advocacy and the development of a more supportive policy environment, as well as finding ways to further integrate business.

“Rewilding Europe is searching for that economic ‘sweet spot’, and I’m confident that it will be found,” he continues. “The fact that rewilding helps to address both climate change and biodiversity decline is really important because this increases the potential availability of funding. Rewilding Europe’s operational areas are critical showcases because they demonstrate what can be achieved.”


Enhancing the team

Sabine Hoefnagel new member of the Supervisory Board
Sabine Hoefnagel has also joined the Supervisory Board.

Rewilding Europe’s Supervisory Board was set up in 2012 and its members boast complementary experience, skills and strengths. In addition to its supervisory role, the board also helps Rewilding Europe in its mission by advising, challenging and stimulating discussion. Jan Derck van Karnebeek is not the only new appointee – he is joined by Sabine Hoefnagel, who has vital experience in sustainability consulting and operations.

“Together with Sabine and the other board members, I’m looking forward to supporting Rewilding Europe’s dedicated and very capable management team,” says Jan Derck. “Mobilising strong teams, driving growth and supporting entrepreneurship are particular passions of mine, and I will help the initiative in any way that I can. I expect to learn a lot about the theory and practice of rewilding in return.”


Wild at heart

Jan Derck may have a few things to learn about rewilding, but he is already a nature lover at heart and a rewilding practitioner. He grew up spending long summers on his family estate in the east of the Netherlands, developing a passion for the wild (he is now the estate’s director). Over the last 20 years, the estate has moved away from a historic focus on intensive agriculture and production forestry, with grassland, heathland and natural forest landscapes allowed to develop.

“The idea has been to create more space for natural processes,” explains Jan Derck. “We have around 150 roe deer on the estate already, and may introduce additional large herbivores in the future.

“Nature is very important to me,” he continues. “Some people go to clubs or dinner to relax, I go to nature – whether that’s 10 minutes in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark or a five-hour hike or cycle on the estate. Nature is a gift and we must treasure it.”


A transformative chairmanship

Frans handing over a painting of a European bison herd to Wiet de Bruijn after leaving the Supervisory Board
Frans Schepers hands over a painting of a European bison herd by Elwin van der Kolk to Wiet de Bruijn to thank him for his dedicated chairmanship.
Frans Schepers

Rewilding Europe is grateful to Wiet de Bruijn, who became the initiative’s first Supervisory Board chairman back in 2012. Significant progress has been made under his nearly decade-long chairmanship.

“When I was approached to be chairman, rewilding was still very conceptual,” recalls Wiet. “Although I had an entrepreneurial background, the ambition of the four founders of Rewilding Europe to create a new conservation paradigm seemed incredibly bold to me.

“Nine years later, Rewilding Europe stands at the forefront of a rewilding movement with real momentum, belief and ambition,” he continues. “Rewilding, which is already delivering benefits to nature and people, is on the cusp of playing a game-changing role in nature restoration and society. I feel proud and privileged to have played a part in this evolution.”

Wiet says he has learned many things during his tenure, which has seen him visit all of Rewilding Europe’s operational areas and meet with many members of the Rewilding Europe team and the initiative’s partners.

“I now know that Europe is home to wild nature that is more extensive and more beautiful than I could ever imagine,” he says. “I saw evidence that nature is very resilient and will bounce back if we give it the opportunity. But I think the most important insight that I have gained is that is that the world was already in balance before mankind came along. Nature is perfectly capable of managing itself and supporting us – it is now up to humanity to create the conditions for our own survival by restoring it. Rewilding at scale is essential in this regard.”


Looking to a wilder future

Wiet may be stepping down as chairman, but he will remain associated with Rewilding Europe as a donor.

“I know Jan Derck well enough to trust that the future of Rewilding Europe is in good hands,” he says. “Under his chairmanship I am sure that the initiative’s practical efforts will continue to bear fruit, showcasing the wide range of benefits that rewilding can deliver.

“I hope and expect that such efforts will inspire many other rewilding initiatives, which collectively will bring about a wilder Europe,” he continues. While I’m sad to be leaving, I’m also excited, because I’m expecting big things for rewilding over the coming years.”


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