Paul Chatterton – WWF’s Finance Lab working on landscapes of 1M hectares and $100M investments

Paul Chatterton is the founder of the Landscape Finance Lab, an experimental unit inside the World Wildlife Fund. They incubate sustainable landscapes and structure and launch and fund deals at landscape scale.


Main take aways:

  • The tools we have at the moment are not up to the get up to the challenge. We need to change the whole way that we’re working
  • The last year has been a really dramatic learning curve listening to bankers shadowing them understanding what they would invest in and wouldn’t
  • Now running programs to save nature and promote green economy 
    at the scale of a million hectares, one hundred million dollars investment dealing with one million tonnes of traded goods and a million people
  • We need to be able to operate at that scale as a nature conservation organization

Landscape Finance Lab

WWF Congo Basin

Gabon: Surfing hippos, lacking tourists




landscape, forest, fiji, investors, finance, shift, money, reef, planet, world, local, people, sustainability, investment, approach, foresters, investing, area, podcast, businesses


Koen van Seijen, Paul Chatterton

Koen van Seijen 00:00

This episode is about landscape approach and why operating at a landscape scale is crucial when regenerating soils, forest and seas and actually makes raising capital easier. If you are an investor and you're considering making investments in land use, you need to look at the full landscape you're gonna operate in.

Koen van Seijen 00:18

Welcome to another episode of "Investing in Regenerative Agriculture: Investing as if the Planet Mattered" a podcast show where I talk to the pioneers in the regenerative food and agriculture space to learn more on how to put our money to work to regenerate soil, people, local communities and ecosystems while making an appropriate and fair return. Why am I focused on soil and regeneration? Because so many of the pressing issues we face today have their roots in how we treat our land, grow our food and what we eat, and it's time that we as investors, big and small, and consumers, start paying much more attention to the dirt slash soil underneath our feet.

Koen van Seijen 00:56

Before we get started, I've been recording these interviews next to my day job and I will definitely continue to do so and release about an episode a month, but at the same time, I would love to take this further, share more interviews. There are many more stories to share on investing in regenerative food and agriculture, more depth, improve the quality, maybe even doing some video series. So I started a Patreon community which makes it easy to support creators like myself. If these podcasts have been of value to you, and if you have the means I invite you to support me and make this happen. For more information, please find the link to my Patreon account in the description below. And now without further ado, the interview. Enjoy.

Koen van Seijen 01:38

Welcome to a new episode. I'm Koen van Seijen your host and today I interviewed Paul Chatterton, founder of the landscape finance lab, an experimental unit inside the World Wildlife Fund. They incubate sustainable landscapes and structure launch and fund deals at landscape scale. I have a lot of questions because I think landscape scale is one of the most interesting pieces of regenerative agriculture and food. So welcome, Paul.

Paul Chatterton 02:01

Thanks very much. for pleasure.

Koen van Seijen 02:03

Let's dive straight in with a personal question, what brings you to WWF? What brings you to landscape finance lab? And what brings you to, let's say land use and landscapes kill? Because there are not too many people actually looking at that.

Paul Chatterton 02:18

It actually started sitting up a eucalyptus tree in Tasmania in front of the bulldozers many, many years ago, I used to work...

Koen van Seijen 02:26

I didn't know that, I couldn't have imagined the better side of the podcast.

Paul Chatterton 02:30

Oh man, this tree was in a forest of the tallest flowering plants on the planet, the eucalyptus regnant. The mountain ash grow to 90 meters, my tree was 80 meters tall, I was sitting in the first branch which was 30 meters above the ground, and I sat there for a week to try to stop the bulldozers. And we saved the forest. They cut that tree down immediately, they got us got us out of the out of the sky. What it taught me was that although we won that battle, we lost the war, because for the next 15 years we were fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting. The conservationists versus the the foresters, the politicians were playing us off against each other and it made me realize that we needed to change the game and think of the bigger picture, think in a more embracing way, and find solutions that work for all of the people, you know, in the landscape and for nature as well. And that was a long journey that took me then to New Guinea where I ran a reverse conservation program, and then to Austria and where I'm based now.

Koen van Seijen 03:45

And just for whoever doesn't know the Landscape Finance Lab, yet, what is it? What was the idea behind it? You're relatively new, you're an experimental unit that shows you're a pilot. But what was the reason to found it and why a finance lab?

Koen van Seijen 04:02

Yeah, the Landscape Finance Lab was set up three years ago. In WFF we've been successful at winning many battles, but you know that that war is absolutely being lost. There are half as many animals on this planet now, in the wild, as there were when I was born 50 years ago. It's a disaster, and the tools we have at the moment are not up to the challenge. We need to change the whole way that we're working if we're going to save nature, and we need to shift whole economies to being green and supporting sustainability. So the lab was developed out of some of the lessons we'd learned with some of the big climate programs that we were developing to save rainforests. So we were dealing with some very large finance. These were the largest projects WFF had ever run in one place and we were able to secure $170 million for an area in the Democratic Republic of Congo just north of north of Kinshasa to save an area of forest the size of Greece. What that taught us was that you can work with multiple players in a landscape, you can work with very, very big finance. And as you work together it became clear that you create synergies between the different players, between the foresters that we've been fighting and ourselves, between the agriculturalists and the foresters, and so forth. So very much going back to that, you know, that realization in Tasmania. But what we didn't realize at the time was the power of private sector finance to shift the economies towards sustainability. And that was very much a focus of the lab. How do we do programs to save nature and promote green economy at the scale of a million hectars, $100 million investment, dealing with them with million tons of traded goods, million people... We've got to be able to operate at that scale, as a nature conservation organization if we're going to save nature, but the planet needs that as well if we're going to reach the SDGs, the global goals.

Koen van Seijen 06:20

And just do - I mean, there's a lot to unpack there - but to look at Congo, in a sense, and to look at this monumental shift, or paradigm shift that happened in your team and the team with WWF, because I think this was one of the first times you were actually not fighting the battle. Like you were actually getting most or maybe even all stakeholders involved and figuring out a way, a puzzle basically to make everyone better, instead of just blocking and basically going against the foresters that you were mentioning before that you kept losing. How did you get everyone involved? And is that something of a landscape that if you think at that scale, you can actually figure out a way that it's a win-win for everyone?

Paul Chatterton 07:01

That's actually the real beauty of the landscape approach. When you're dealing with with small issues, a logging operation or a farm, and sustainability issues, and over a short timeframe at a small space, you end up with conflict. We've got very little room to move between the players. With a landscape program, you can all take a breath, because you can think about landscape, you have to think about landscapes over at least a 10 year period, ideally a generation or more. You've got to think about them over a much larger space which then gives you all the ability to be more creative, to move operations over time rather than immediately, to restore forests or water flows or whatever. This is absolutely the power of the landscape approach that gives everyone space to think and dream and find their own place over time, uou don't have to do it all at once.

Koen van Seijen 08:01

And do you have an example of that? In this case, because I'm struggling to see how a forester, just to make it a character, basically wants to cut down as fast as possible and sell. How do you get a company like that on board on a regeneration, not even sustainability, but actually how did you get them on a regenerative way of thinking? How do you do that? And how does a landscape approach make that possible?

Paul Chatterton 08:30

Well, let's go back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The province of Mai-Ndombe is north of Kinshasa. There's about 10 logging concessions in that area that cover an area of about a million hectares. These are the forests where you find the bonobo chimp, the closest, closest animal to human beings. We as an organization have been fighting with those logging operations for a long time. They've been very destructively managed, but haven't had much money to do things properly. What happened when we started working on the landscape approach was that we were able to offer, with the World Bank, carbon funds for changing behavior in forest management. And as soon as the companies realized that that was available, they started talking to us and the more we were talked they admitted that the concessions weren't profitable at the moment, they were hanging on to them in the hope that timber prices might go up. But they we're very happy to shift their business models, some of them to sell out completely, others to shift over to more sustainable operations, knowing that the new income stream that would help them to to make that shift. And so you know, rather than fighting on a concession by concession basis with each other, we're all looking at a much bigger picture and then it created opportunities for those companies to also be helping in planting plantations, away from the native forests that could supply the needs of Kinshasa, working with communities to allow for us to regenerate and taking some of that pushed for charcoal production in a sustainable way, instead of cutting down the old growth rainforests. It's really, really changing the game. It's early days still, but already we're seeing the forest coming back, the water flows improving, women have to walk less distance in the trial villages at least, and we hope to expand that to 1000 villages.

Koen van Seijen 10:36

And is that something that gives you hope, in a sense, like, because I see that in soil, often I think the standard approach was, or the standard way of thinking, it takes 10,000 years to build an inch of topsoil, it takes a long time, and now we're actually seeing that some farmers do it way, way faster. Is that something you see in forestry etc. as well, like it does bounce back if you give it space and structure and you maybe even help or you maybe replant certain things? Do we have a chance? Like does it come back fast enough?

Paul Chatterton 11:06

Oh, absolutely. You know, if you've got core rain forest seed bank you can grow a rain forests back. Not all of it, not everywhere, but in many places certainly. And what's really exciting is that animals come back really rapidly as well, if you take the pressure off. My my friends in Gabon had turned a very large area, which had no elephants into a place that was full of elephants in 10 years.

Koen van Seijen 11:33

Is that a place where they're surfing the elephant? I've once seen, I don't know that I'm making it up, an article of surfing elephants of surfing hippos, maybe, in Gabon I think.

Paul Chatterton 11:43

This does include a beach area, so it could well be.

Koen van Seijen 11:47

Maybe they were hippos... I will find it and put it in the show notes below. I think it was a Time article a long time ago.

Paul Chatterton 11:53

Yeah, my friend was actually telling me about the elephants that appeared on his house, which is right on the beach, so could be the same one.

Koen van Seijen 12:01

Very interesting. And so taking this experience of the Democratic Republic of Congo, you found that this lab, which by the name is an experimental area, and you started working with other landscapes? How did that process go? How do you choose them? Because you're a small team, based in Vienna, and there's only so much you can do, obviously. So what's the process now after a few years of trying, and trials, to work with other landscapes than Congo?

Paul Chatterton 12:28

So the important principle is that, you know, the landscapes have to build themselves. The people in the landscapes have to already be very organized and ready to go on to the next stage. So we have an online platform, people fill out details, just some basic details, where they're up to, they need to show that they've got the scale.

Koen van Seijen 12:50

And people in this case are local NGOs? What kind of groups do you see approaching you?

Koen van Seijen 12:57

So we started with WWF offices, in places like Fiji, Cambodia, Cameroon, and so forth. And now we're getting provincial governments, the government of Yucatan has applied, investment companies, national governments, companies starting to put ideas forward. Anyone can kick-off a landscape program, the fundamental principle low is that they then have to form a multi-stakeholder partnership with a group of people who want to solve a problem in that landscape. They go through a process of understanding the landscape better, and the problem, and each other, and then they develop a collaborative plan to address the problem. It's quite simple. And then we help them with that, and with getting the financing for the individual activities to address the problem. And that might be grant financing, it might be carbon financing, or more recently, we're starting to show the ability to bring in private financing into areas.

Koen van Seijen 14:07

And continue on that thought. Do you have an example of private finance, or one of the landscapes that's mostly advanced in this process of where the smart impact investors that are listening to the show could get an idea of what's possible?

Paul Chatterton 14:22

Yeah well I've just come off a call, we're right in the middle of developing an investment fund in Fiji for businesses that can help contribute to saving Fiji's reef system. Fiji has this fabulous reef system that actually contributes half of the economy, from fishing and tourism, and that's going to disappear under climate change because of all of the stresses, the pollution that comes down off the land.

Paul Chatterton 14:53

Just to summarize, basically Fiji is killing it's own reef not only because we're all polluting way too much and the temperature in the ocean, and the acidity is going up, but also because of the run offs of their farms on the islands, right? So there's a direct connection. It's not only, I mean it's obviously also our fault, but part of the the issue is the local pressure of the run-offs of farms that actually basically bleaches the reefs.

Paul Chatterton 15:20

Exactly. All the nutrients, the pesticides and fertilizers poison the reefs, the silt from housing developments, the the poos from the tourists, the tourists come destroying what they come to see, in fact. So how do we shift that around? We helped 15 organizations so four government departments, number of NGOs, industry groups, banks to put together $115 million call for saving the reefs of Fiji and that involved shifting over to organic agriculture, shifting to sustainable fisheries, and restoring the mangrove forest and the river forests and dealing with waste management. We're now developing a $30 million public sector funding program with the Fijian government workshops were just happening happening last week in fact.

Paul Chatterton 16:15

But parallel to that there's a whole lot of businesses that can actually benefit very nicely from this sort of transition. Organic Agriculture is already getting good impact investment and we want to scale that up. Carbon money for the forest restoration and impact investment for the fishery. We're setting up a company where a local entrepreneur is leading it at the moment, the company's called Matanataki which is the Fijian word for action, the next step on from Tot Kolonowa, and that'll manage investments from around the world into projects that contribute to the goals of saving the reef, and also monitor the impacts. We've got a couple of projects already that are lined up. We're talking to an investor in London just yesterday, who's ready to move move on this, and we'll be looking for other investors to join in.

Koen van Seijen 17:09

It's extremely interesting, first of all, but also the first time I hear organic and I hope this will be the regenerative organic type and not the plowing version of organic because we've seen that way too often, unfortunately. But the first time I hear organic and regenerative agriculture connecting to the reef. But because that connection is so clear, and so direct, I think the case in this case for a transition finance to help as many farms and farmers to actually switch to make that transition and to start supplying hopefully to the local tourists, so to actually get that circle and to the local hotels, etc. I mean, it's it's crazy that Fiji has to import a lot of its food, especially serving the tourists and that actually destroying the reef in the process.

Paul Chatterton 17:50

It's insane. And again, this is the beauty of the landscape approach, you wouldn't think that farmers would be the solution to saving the reefs, but that's how it came out when everyone sat down.

Koen van Seijen 18:01

Well, I always think that farmers are the solution to any problem.

Paul Chatterton 18:04

So then farmers have a solution for everything, of course.

Koen van Seijen 18:06

Soil and farmers. But yeah, no, no, I get your point. And so that's, I mean, it's a small island system but that's a huge amount, a 115 and a 30 million fund. This gives you a certain understanding of the scale you're thinking and working and operating, that we need that we absolutely need but that I often miss in much smaller programs. A few hectars here a few 100 hectars etc. which really is just not going to get us to scale in time, because we're literally running out of time and running out of top soil. What do you see? You've have been a few years in the program now. If we look one year ago, it's now may 2019, if we look one or one and a half year ago till now what do you see as the biggest shift that has happened in in the full sector that you're operating in?

Paul Chatterton 18:56

Well for us it's been understanding how businesses work and what bankers need to invest in good businesses. The last year has been a really dramatic learning curve for us listening to bankers, shadowing them, understanding what they would invest in and wouldn't, and then working with the businesses to see from their side, whether that sort of thing makes sense, and whether they can deliver impact.

Koen van Seijen 19:23

Doyou have an example of that, like something that already came out?

Paul Chatterton 19:26

Yeah, I mean, in Cambodia we're working with H&M, the world's second largest garment company who, it turns out that the garment company in Cambodia is a major driver of forest destruction. They use wood to fuel the boilers that produce the steam for pressing the clothes and dyeing the cloth and so forth.

Koen van Seijen 19:53

Another example of something you would never have seen if you didn't look at a landscape.

Paul Chatterton 19:58

Exactly. You know, most of this happens in Phnom Penh but the impact is out in places like the eastern plains which is the largest rainforest lift in Indio-china. So we're collecting these to them and thinking about how do you actually shift the factories over to purchasing wood from lone plantations, not from the forest, and then eventually shift out of wood to solo. It's not possible at the moment so wood is the the main option. And agricultural waste briquettes are being experimented with as well. But this, you know, this came down to a very practical set of questions. How does the factory, can the factory get wood at a price basically the same as what they're paying now, but legal and sustainable, and then who's going to supply that? So there are a couple of plantation companies we're talking with whose operations are reasonably good, we want to be sure that they are absolutely above board, environmentally, and that they're progressing towards certification. They're not there yet, but there's not much in Cambodia that is. But if we look at it over a 10 year period, and if we've got the whole garment industry in Cambodia coming online to commit to shifting their sourcing, then you can really give some great opportunities to some of these plantation businesses. And that gives opportunities to bankers to be able to help them with the money to expand their operations and really make the change rapidly. So, you know, we're really seeing now that the finance is a is a tremendous driver, and also the global purchasing systems, the big companies who are who are driving those economies can be a real, real help if they're committed to sustainability as well.

Koen van Seijen 21:58

Is there something else that you've seen change over the last, let's say last year, last year's, that these large companies are, are getting involved in the landscape, not just in their supply webs or supply chains that they have been doing, especially the forward looking ones, but actually getting to a landscape thinking? Is it something you you've seen happening? Or obviously, you would like it more but is that a shift from let's say, five years ago, when you you started looking at landscape to more and more?

Paul Chatterton 22:28

I think a lot of them have very strong goals for sustainability, and they know that their consumers want rainforest-free and cruelty-free and so forth products. The big challenge for big companies, how do you actually make that work, and it's got to work at some scale, for it to be interesting for them. They're not, you know small pet projects are not going to do it. With the cocoa industry, we're working with them in West Africa, in Cameroon, and they've got a challenge that in the next 10 years, the cocoa production will drop 40% because of climate change. The forest and the agricultural areas are drying up. So they've got to find solutions, and it's got to be at a large scale, large enough scale to deal with the microclimates in those areas of West Africa.

Koen van Seijen 23:23

What do you mean by that? Like you beed to be large enough to influence that local microclimate.

Paul Chatterton 23:28

So, water flow is very much dictated by forest cover. If you have forest, you have water, if you lose your forest the water disappears in West Africa.

Koen van Seijen 23:42

But this suggests that it could come back if you plan to forest, replant the forst.

Paul Chatterton 23:45

It can, it can, that's the theory we've got to test it. But you know, West Africa, Ghana Ivory Coast and Cameroon produced 60% of the world's cocoa beans. They're drying up rapidly, and their ability to produce is really diminishing. Ivory Coast and Ghana don't have much forest left, they've chopped it down. So they're in a difficult position. Cameroon still has very large areas of forest and the cocoa industry wants to make sure that it's deforestation-free, it doesn't want to be blamed for chopping down rainforests. But more importantly, their business model depends on being able to secure that waterflow. And that's about being part of a much bigger initiative to protect that, the Congo jungles in that in that area. We've just kicked that off but we're looking at securing quite large areas of forest and helping the cocoa industry to be agents of reforestation with the farmers that they purchase from. That's a long term initiative. It'll take a lot of research. But already we're confident that we've got the commitment from the industry to move forward.

Koen van Seijen 24:09

And to, because I'm making an assumption here that most of the private investors or most of the private wealth actually is in let's say Europe, North America. Is a difficult because most of the projects you mentioned are very far away. So two questions. One, are you working on projects closer to these investors? And if not, or actually also "yes", how do you get investors from far literally, culturally, distance etc., how do you get them involved? Or has it been difficult or tricky to get interest from the private investor world that maybe are not the World Bank etc.?

Paul Chatterton 25:28

Yeah, yeah, we were just starting, we're learning day by day, it's really, really quite exciting. But I think one of the key lessons we learned is that our best friends are the local banks and local financial institutions. The Fiji Development Bank, the Fiji Reserve Bank, ANZ bank in Fiji, they have been very, very useful, and supportive players. We didn't realize how excited they get by this, and how valuable it would be for them as well. In Cambodi it's Acleda Bank, the largest bank and probably the greenest bank in Cambodia that's become interested in being a partner in this process, and that makes it eamuch easier for investors on the other side of the world to know that there's some local institutions that can provide some rigor to the investments and some checks and balances.

Koen van Seijen 26:23

And some boots on the ground and some understanding of local culture and ways of doing business. Yeah, ofcourse.

Paul Chatterton 26:28

Exactly. And you know in the long run, these things have to be sustainable, have to be managed locally, even right from the first day that's our principle is landscapes first. The the team on the ground, leads it, we provide some support and coaching, but they make the decisions snd our goal is to help them to get the resources to build this slowly and steadily, until they've got $100 million between them to really shift the needle to change what's happening in their landscapes. And I think that's a big shift, because most of the world is run from New York and Geneva and Frankfurt. The money goes out, it's brought out by people from those countries who do work with locals, and then the profit and control goes back. If we can put the finance and the control in the hands of the people in the landscape, they've got an incentive to look after their own home much more than the people on the other side of the world do. And you know, how that plays out, I'm not clear, we're just at the early days of it, of building this, but I think it is possible to have significant financing scale in landscapes like Fiji or Cameroon that's run by local organizations.

Koen van Seijen 27:52

And run fully, probably also means part of it has to be raised locally. I mean, a local bank, obviously, it's mostly local savers, etc. At some point, if you get to 100 million, if you want to get to 100 million, maybe the local bank isn't enough. But it always, I mean completely agree, I think it has to be a hybrid between definitely some, if necessary, only if, as the money from outside to get there faster. But the more you can find locally, the more sense it makes, and also the more democratization of impact investing happens, because otherwise, it's always going to be a few families or a few institutions, in the cities you just mentioned, which, at the end of the day will be fine anyway. I mean if we cut down the whole rainforest in Cambodia they won't notice, but local people will. So how do you bridge that gap between where the money is and where the money is necessary without getting into the same power struggles we've been in for a long time?

Paul Chatterton 28:49

Exactly, and there'll be a big test. In Fiji, for instance, the government has a pretty limited budget. And you know, there's a lot of aid money flowing, they don't tend to put their money into aid projects, because they last a few years, they disappear, and then another project comes. It might help it may not. But if they can see that there's something that they'll be owning over time, I think there's more chance that they'll put their own money, and that's going to be a big test of their work in Fiji and I think we'll determine the scale that we can get to. But let's see.

Koen van Seijen 29:25

But also, I think on the structure side, as well, because if it's locally structured on local conditions, and you are able to get in outside investors, at least they don't have the advantage of dictating the deal or dictating the structures or dictating the fund. The money only comes if we do this, this and this. No. The structure and the conditions have been set locally, and if you want to invest great, if you don't we'll find it somewhere else. This is of course an ideal scenario, and I'm not saying that this ever happens, but it does shift the game like "Look, you're investing in something locally. You like it or not." There's no, it's not that you can come in and set these deals or these conditions in Fiji.

Paul Chatterton 30:07

And I think the Fijians don't want to, you know, don't want to control everything they want to, they want to be partners with their investors, but they want the flexibility to do things in a Fijian way that's going to build over time and be stable. And that's what any good investor would want as well, I would think.

Koen van Seijen 30:23

Yeah, no, I completely agree. Because there's, there's only so much you can do from a long distance. It's also, it's a huge risk mitigation bbviously, if there's a very strong landscape partnership with very strong local partners, I think as an investor, you should be very wary if you're investing somewhere long term in something land-use related, and if there's not a landscape approach, I think there should be a few red flags going up in your in your due diligence.

Paul Chatterton 30:49

Well, the advantage of a landscape approach we're finding is that it gives you all of the stakeholders you'd want to talk to. If you're a business, you don't have to do that work yourself. It gives you a set of very clear and simple SGD targets that you can work towards, and monitoring systems to measure those, so you don't have to do that yourself. It helps with the regulatory questions that you have as a business in doing fish farming, or growing ginger and turmeric, or whatever it might be that you're growing. And it gives you a bigger goal that you can contribute to, which makes your life more exciting as well.

Paul Chatterton 31:28

What we're finding with Fiji too is that by taking the landscape approach, we can bring in multiple, quite different streams of finance. You know there's this $30 million public financing from the Green Climate Fund that we're we're hoping to bring, there's an impact investor that's linked to a major bank that's talking about bringing an amount of money in, there's another family office that'll bring another set of money and that can be used for different types of activities. We can do crowdfunding for the early incubation process for startups. And we've actually got an insurance company very interested in looking at different types of insurance product that rewards climate-friendly businesses, and so forth. So we're actually able to bring in quite a few different types of finance, and some of them may not happen, but some will, but that again creates synergies and makes the whole system more stable, is my theory. This is all theory, of course, you know, we've not achieved any of this in practice so I'm talking through my hat, really. But the progress is quite exciting at the moment.

Koen van Seijen 32:42

And just to get off that cloud of theory, what are the biggest barriers you see to make the landscape approach and regeneration of landscape? Because I think we really have to move beyond sustainability, because it keeps it as it is, which isn't good enough. What are the biggest barriers you see to make this more economically viable, for more investors to see this as a crucial piece in their investment strategy?

Paul Chatterton 33:07

Well, I think just understanding the landscape approach, we wrote a book a few years ago, "The Little Sustainable Landscape" book to bring a whole lot of organizations together under one single explanation of the landscape approach. But you know that we need to get that message out again, and again, make it really simple. There's five basic steps to build a landscape program, make sure that people understand that and that investors understand that.

Koen van Seijen 33:37

What are the five steps?

Paul Chatterton 33:39

So the five steps are: a multi stakeholder platform, common understanding of the issues in the landscape and possible solutions, an agreed action plan to address address those solutions, getting on and implementing it, and then monitoring and learning.

Koen van Seijen 33:58

Yeah, I can see investors saying, "Yeah, that's very complicated, it takes a lot of time." but I think that's why it's interesting that you can basically, I wouldn't say piggyback, but partner with groups like yourself, where it's already happening in the landscape, and you don't have to do it completely from scratch as an investor, because that's also not really your role. Partly, it is a obviously, but partly, it isn't. So you need partners in this, but I can see many say year that's too complicated, it takes too long, I'll just make a direct investment somewhere and won't bother too much with it.

Paul Chatterton 34:29

No, exactly. That and, you know, I think that's the challenge is to make this standard practice so that investors don't have to think about Landscape programs give them the framework to be clear on what they should be investing in, and whether their investments are really making an impact. And those impacts can then be rolled up into the national reporting and global reporting on the global goals. So building that landscape program approach is part of that challenge, but then getting investment into the individual activities is the next one and working out simple ways to do that so that investors don't have to do all the hard work of understanding landscape program. It just becomes, yes or no, do I want to be in a landscape program or don't I? And here's the benefits, and here's the costs. We haven't, we're starting to get that story clear, but there's still a bit of work to do.

Koen van Seijen 35:29

And just to take a landscape overview for a second to go to a slightly higher level. I've seen an interview somewhere with you are you mentioned there are 1000 landscapes of which 100 are critical. Is that number still up to date. Because 1000 seems a lot and very little at the same time and 100 seems very manageable. But I don't know if I'm completely under estimating this challenge.

Paul Chatterton 35:50

Yeah, well, you know, one day when I've got time I'll write a scientific paper on this. Back of the envelope look at it says that there are about 1000 landscapes, sorry, eco-regions on the planet, ecological types. So there's to be precisely I think there's 790. And there's about 1000 river basins, there's about - if you count it up - there's about 1000 small countries and provinces of large countries. So whichever way you cut it there's about a 1000 landscapes on the planet. But when you look at the SDGs, the global goals, if you want to address carbon emissions, they come from about 100 landscapes. In terms of forest emissions, there's only 13 landscapes that deliver most of the forest emissions. Agricultural emissions is probably about 50. You know, most of the water, freshwater supply on this planet is in about a 100 landscapes. The biodiversity is absolutely concentrated into probably about 50 of those landscapes. It's broadly spreaf but if you save 50, you save the majority of life on this planet, particularly the rainforests and the reefs. And then, poverty is concentrated in perhaps 100 landscapes snd it often overlaps with where the emissions come from and where the biodiversity is. So our theory is that if you can save and sustainably manage 100 landscapes, if you can get them to the point where they meet the SDG goals, then you meet the SDGs on the planet. And, you know, our costings at the moment for building a landscape program and getting investment is somewhere between 100 million and a billion dollars per landscape. So that's more expensive than a fighter jet, but cheaper than an aircraft carrier. And there's no reason why the world couldn't find that money. We have to now build the machinery to actually deliver on that vision. And that's what we're doing with the Landscape Finance Lab, and our many partners.

Koen van Seijen 37:55

It makes it extremely doable and scary and complex at the same time. But it at least gives you a sense that it is possible. Because you have been working also, for instance, with climate bonds or with with the large, large financial institutions that are mostly dept-based to connect at some point with them and get the real big money flowing into these systems, right?

Paul Chatterton 38:17

Yeah, so green bonds, the green bond universe, this year there'll be $250 billion worth of investment in the green bond. So this is money that is connected to climate benefits to sustainability benefits and this is exactly the sort of money we want to get into the landscapes. So the next question is just simply how do you build landscape bonds?

Koen van Seijen 38:39

You said simply but that's not really simple, because if I do a green bond very specifically focused on large solar parks, or more electric trains, if I'm still driving some diesel or electric cars, I mean, I've seen many of them and they're very, very singular and linear, and if there's one thing that a landscape isn't, it's not that. So how would you, I mean we're still in the early phases but I'm very curious about this transition finance, especially the large chunks of money, how would you envision this process to unfold over the next couple of years?

Paul Chatterton 39:12

Well if you'd ask someone about wind farms and energy parks 10-20 years ago, they would have said it was horribly complex, and we've got little projects here, and we don't know how to do it. Now, it's just completely obvious. And that's where we are right now with land use, and landscapes. One tool to get to scale, and we with the lab we have a systematic process to just step people through easily all of these complex stages, and we're confident that we can get people to a point where we'll have a strong plan and financing to deliver on the SDGs.

Paul Chatterton 39:51

Now how do we make that just standard practice in the industry, that's another thing altogether, but I took great heart when I learned the story of George Stephenson and the development of the railways, you know, back in the 1840s, he was in exactly the same problem. They, you know, in the 1840s, he had a railway, the head rails, they knew that they could build something. But what they did was quite extraordinary, was create the Railway Company which brought together the politicians, the financiers and the engineers, and within 10 years, they've raised the equivalent of the GDP of England. They built 10,000 kilometers worth of railways in 10 years, they've invented how to build tunnels and bridges, you know Brunel's bridges are part of part of that. So it is possible, but it does take a lot of thought to take these complicated pieces, and put them into a into a simple machine. There's many people around the world working on on that challenge right at the moment, and linking it up to the financing. It's really, really quite exciting times.

Koen van Seijen 41:03

It's extremely exciting. And I want to be conscious of your time because you have landscapes to manage, to help manage. I want to end with a final question. If you could wave your magic wand and tomorrow morning wake up, I mean it's early morning now, but you will wake up and you have changed one thing in the let's say the regenerative land use space, what would it be?

Paul Chatterton 41:24

Wow, wow, that's a tough one. It would be that we would all focus on just three, four, maybe five things that we're trying to achieve on this planet. The world has come together around climate emissions. So measuring carbon is pretty clear now. And the financial world has now taken that on, and doing it. But can we do the same for biodiversity? Can we do the same for sustainable ecological regenerative agriculture and other production types? Are there just simple ways that we can measure these things, attach those measurements to the finance world, and make sure that you only get money, or you get money much cheaper, if you're meeting those goals. That'll shift things really rapidly. And it's happening right at the moment, the EU is creating a thing called the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, which is the worst possible term and it sounds really boring.

Koen van Seijen 42:31

I know! But they're trying to get Regen Ag in it as well. Capital is working on it, and some other friends.

Paul Chatterton 42:38

Exactly. And if they can get the right measures to say this is good Regen Ag, or forestry, or fisheries, or whatever, and this is not, the bankers can then tick "yes" to a certain type of investment and "no" to the rest of the economies of the world will shift quite rapidly to sustainability or at least a lot faster than they are at the moment. That's an exciting process, the Chinese are following in, the Californians are going to implement it and if they do the Americans will, and then the rest of the world will follow. But it's at a crucial point at the moment, I hope tomorrow will wake up and they've come up with the perfect answer. And we can all just put that into practice in many systems.

Koen van Seijen 43:26

I want to thank you so much for for this answer, but actually the whole interview so far which I think has been extremely interesting to hopefully get more people to look at a landscape approach and to consider that when approaching investments in land use. I'll definitely be checking in and thanks again for your time and wisdom.

Paul Chatterton 43:46

Well, thank you, Koen, for what you're doing as well, talking about this, and sharing the stories. It's so fundamental. It's a pleasure.

Koen van Seijen 43:54

I hope you enjoyed this interview and leared something about thinking big and why landscape approach is key to get the impact we need.

Koen van Seijen 44:01

If you found the "Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food" podcast valuable, there are a few simple ways you can use to support it: (1) rate and review the podcast on your podcast app, it's the best way for our listeners to find the podcast and it only takes a few seconds; (2) share this podcast on social media or email it to your friends and colleagues; (3) if this podcast has been of value to you, and if you have the means please join my patreon community to help grow this platform and allow me to take it further. You can find all the details on or in the description below. Thank you so much and see you at the next podcast.


Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.

Join the Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food newsletter on

The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

Join the Community

5 comments on “Paul Chatterton – WWF’s Finance Lab working on landscapes of 1M hectares and $100M investments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *