The Business Model Canvas (BMC) is a widely used tool to develop new, or document and innovate on existing, business models. It helps to visualise the essential elements of a business, and transform a business idea into a business model.

The original business model canvas was developed for ‘lean start-up’ companies and is focused on merely financial returns. The “triple layer business model canvas” was later invented to explore sustainability-oriented business model innovation. With this 4 returns landscape business model canvas, Commonland combined those models with field experiences in 4 Returns business development.

A 4 Returns business is a regenerative business that has a landscape approach and designs its value proposition to deliver (some of the) 4 returns. Learn more about the 4 Returns approach here.

Because a 4 Returns Business has a landscape view, this canvas is two-layered, to enable thinking from two perspectives:

  • The landscape view aims to help thinking from a landscape perspective. What are the 4 losses currently in the landscape, and what could be their returns? What are the landscape’s key inhibitors, enables, and stakeholders?
  • The business view is focused on designing a viable business case. A learning from our business partners is that the key challenge is to just ‘make the business work’. Therefore, this is a separate layer, allowing you to focus on the business model only.

After having filled in the business view, you can go back to the landscape view and see which returns in your landscape view are not covered by your business. These are goals which you could collaboratively achieve in a landscape partnership, as only by working together with partners can a landscape vision become reality.

Filling in the canvas: some pointers 

  • Keep in mind that filling in the canvas can be an iterative process – as you answer the questions of latter boxes, it may provide you with new ideas to go back and adjust or add to earlier boxes.
  • You may not be able to fill in all boxes in the beginning, which is  fine and maybe even provide a useful insight. Do realise that a filled-in business model canvas may always remain a work-in-progress. Ultimately, this canvas is a tool to help you, so feel comfortable to adapt it to your needs.
  • Filling in the canvas can be done individually as a thinking tool, but they’re also well suited for a workshop setting.
  • You can fill in the canvas digitally by typing into the empty boxes. Alternatively, you can print them out, preferably on a larger (A3/A2) paper.

Other helpful materials:

  • In this how-to guide you’ll find elaborate guidelines on each of the business model canvas boxes. It may be useful to print these out in order to look up those boxes you may not be sure about.
  • In this example you’ll find a canvas filled in by regenerative farm and business La Junquera in the Altiplano Estepario, Spain.
  • In this example  you’ll find a canvas filled in by NGO Living Lands for the Baviaanskloof Wildlife business case. You can use this to get a feel for how you could approach the canvas.

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One reply on "4 Returns Landscape Business Model Canvas"

  1. Hi Commonland team,

    Open to provide feedback on the 4 returns BMC and facilitating others to work with it. I have worked with several canvasses, developed program/topic specific canvasses and facilitated in the What, why, How for using canvasses.

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