Conservationist heads Dutch Sustainable Top 100 list

The Sustainable Top 100 compiled by Dutch daily Trouw has been announced this week. The list is topped this year by conservationist Willem Ferwerda. His scheme Commonland  works with local farmers, land-users and entrepreneurs to restore wasteland using sustainable business cases.

Screenshot Commonland video

The scheme helps them to scale up existing ecosystem restoration projects by developing companies which generate investment. In doing so, the scheme results in what it calls the four returns: the return of inspiration, social capital, natural capital and financial capital. This is done in three zones, a natural zone in which biodiversity is restored and maintained, a mixed zone with farmers working the land and an economic zone for sustainable business activity. The time-scale in which this happens is just 20 years, one generation.

Long-term commitment

At the same time, the scheme is participating in the Bonn Challenge which aims to restore 150 million hectares of wasteland in 20 years. The theme of this year’s Sustainable Top 100 is staying power, so it is appropriate that the winner encourages long-term commitment to ecological restoration. This is the first time that a conservationist has topped the list.

Dutch innovators

Some of those listed in the Sustainable Top 100 are Dutch innovators that have been mentioned on the Holland Trade and Invest website in the past.

In 14th place is inventor of the Ocean Clean Up Boyan Slat, just behind him is Fairphone founder  Bas van Abel in 15th place.  Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde, known for his fluorescent Van Gogh cycle lane, has slipped in ranking in spite of his innovative Smog-Free Tower,  iconic dike art installation and but still holds a prominent 49th place. Founder of the share platform Peerby, Daan Weddepohl has reentered this year’s list. Over 150,000 thousand items are available to borrow or rent on Peerby, saving energy, water and raw materials. The inventor of the Waka Waka solar light Maurits Groen topped last year’s list, but this year he sat in the jury.


The list has also been graced by royalty with Princess Laurentien van Oranje, whose Missing Chapter foundation (in Dutch) developed a national Water Saving campaign (in Dutch) in which 30,000 children are participating by spending only 5 minutes in the shower instead of the average 9.