Paul Chatterton – WWF’s Finance Lab working on landscapes of 1M hectares

Koen van Seijen: Today I interview Paul Chatterton, 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.



Paul Chatterton:  The Landscape Finance Lab was set up three years ago. In WWF we had been successful at winning many battles. But the 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 get 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.

Paul Chatterton: How do we do 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’ve got to be able to operate at that scale as a nature conservation organization. If we’re going to save nature and the planet means that as well if we’re going to reach the SDG the Global Goals.

Paul Chatterton: That’s actually the real beauty of the landscape approach. When you’re dealing with small issues: you know a logging operation or a farm and sustainability issues then over a short timeframe in a small space, you end up with conflict. They’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 in 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.

Paul Chatterton: So the important principle is that 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 where people fill out details of some basic details like from where they’re up to. They need to show that they’ve got the scale.

Paul Chatterton: Anyone can kick off a landscape program. The fundamental principle, though, is that they then have to form a multi-stakeholder partnership, a group of people who want to solve a problem in that landscape. They go through a process of identity, 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 a grant financing, it might be carbon financing or more recently where we’re starting to show the ability to bring in private financing into areas.

Koen van Seijen:  Basically Fiji is killing his own reef not only because of we’re all polluting way too much and the temperature in the ocean and acidity is going up, but also because of the runoffs of their farms on the islands right?

Paul Chatterton: All the nutrients, the pesticides and fertilizers poison the reefs. The silt from the housing developments, the poop from the tourists, the tourists are destroying what they come to see in fact. So how do we shift that around. We helped 15 organizations, four Government departments, a number of NGOs, industry groups, banks to put together a 115 million dollar call for saving the reefs of Fiji. And that involved shifting over to organic agriculture, shifting to sustainable fisheries and restoring the mangrove forests and the river forests and dealing with waste management. And we’re now developing a 30 million dollar public sector funding program with the Fijian government.

Paul Chatterton: 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.

Paul Chatterton:  We’re just starting. We’re learning day by day. It’s really quite exciting. But I think one of the key lessons we learned is that you know our best friends are the local banks and local financial institutions like the Fiji Development Bank, the Fiji Reserve Bank, ANZ Bank in Fiji. They have been very useful and supportive players. We didn’t realize how excited they’d get by this and how valuable it would be for them as well.

Paul Chatterton: Right from the first day that our principal is landscapes first. The team on the ground leads it. We provide support and coaching, but they make the decisions. And our goal is to help them to get the resources to build this slowly and steadily until they’ve got 100 million dollars between them to really shift the needle to change. 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 in control goes back. If we can put the finance and the control in the hands of the people in the landscape and they’ve got an incentive to look after their own home much more than the people on the other side of the world do.

Paul Chatterton: Well, they have the advantage of a landscape approach. What we’re finding is that- you know- it gives you all of the stakeholders you 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 SDG 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 in America or whatever it might be that you’re growing and it gives you a bigger goal that you can contribute to.

Paul Chatterton: So our theory is that if you can save and sustainably manage a hundred 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. We have to now build the machinery to actually deliver on that vision and that’s what we’re doing with the Landscape Finance Land and our many partners.

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