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Our Approach

Landscapes are the most effective systems for tackling climate, biodiversity, food security and development challenges together.

The landscape approach brings together diverse actors in a landscape to form resilient partnerships, co-create a common vision, pool resources, aggregate project activities, share costs and de-risk actions. It helps access public and private financing for ecosystem restoration.  Ultimately, this 'joined up' approach leads to virtuous cycles, bigger impacts and better, more equitable outcomes than could be achieved through individual, uncoordinated actions. But practically, how is this achieved? The answer lies in a practice known as Integrated Landscape Management (ILM).

ILM is a systematic process for achieving cooperative action by stakeholders from multiple sectors to balance competing demands on a landscape. It aims to strategically managing land and water, and maximise benefits equally to nature, people and local economies. Developed over decades of working with local landscape partnerships around the world, the 4 Returns Framework methodology brings together the combined wisdom of the Lab and our partners Commonland and Wetlands International. It provides methods, tools and indicators associated with the process, the impacts, the spatial scale, and the timeframe of a sustainable landscape programme.

The 4 Returns Framework ©Landscape Finance Lab
The 4 Returns Framework ©Landscape Finance Lab


  • a return of inspiration and of hope for change by people living and working in a landscape, as measured through increased levels of civic engagement, good governance and cultural outputs
  • social returns, such as improved health and education outcomes, improved housing or greater gender equality
  • natural returns, including restored ecosystem functions, improved habitats and greater biodiversity
  • and financial returns, such as better livelihoods, more green jobs or new regenerative businesses and certified, sustainable supply chains


  • Element 1: a landscape partnership - a dynamic group of individuals and organisations committed to shared leadership and being both the drivers and stewards of change
  • Element 2: a shared understanding - a collective agreement about the state of the landscape, its present and historical challenges, and its potential future, informed by a rigorous analysis of the landscape's natural and social capital, as well as current drivers of degradation
  • Element 3: landscape vision and collaborative planning - a co-designed mission and action plan that addresses the challenges and opportunities identified in Element 2, and a financing and investment strategy to make it happen
  • Element 4: taking action - pilots and pathways, tracking progress, engaging investors and scaling up actions
  • Element 5: monitoring and learning - monitoring and analysis of results for accountability, accessing more payments and sources of finance, learning and adapting


  • natural zones, where the primary function is to protect and provide a safe haven for nature
  • combined (or 'regeneration') zones, mixed-use areas where land, water and resources are carefully managed to allow for nature-friendly human activity such as regenerative farming, sustainable housing and tourism, etc
  • and economic (or 'production') zones, such as urban or industrial areas (including industrial-scale agriculture), where the impacts of human activities on the wider landscape must be minimised and restricted, with an emphasis on restoration where possible


  • with this transformation taking place over a realistic time period of at least one generation
The 4 Returns Framework for Landscape Restoration
Read the report
Landscape Incubation
Landscape Incubation

The Lab’s Landscape Incubation model offers step-by-step guidance and support for teams adopting and practicing Integrated Landscape Management through the 4 Returns Framework. Read more about our services for landscapes.