In Ethiopia, not only farmers but also the public and private sector partners are still hesitant to invest in sustainable land management (SLM). This study focuses on the Central Rift Valley and explores the potential for co-investments in SLM, where public and private sector partners support farmers with material, capital, knowledge, etc. A survey revealed current bottlenecks for co-investments and requirements needed to collaboratively invest in SLM. It covered 165 public sector partners (micro-, meso- and macro-level institutions) and 42 private sector partners (banks, exporters and local traders). Results for the public sector show a gap between macro- and micro-/meso-level actors concerning co-investments in SLM. Macro-level institutions do not acknowledge the bottlenecks identified by micro- and meso-level institutions (e.g. lack of accountability, top-down approaches and lack of good leadership). Similarly, opinions on requirements for co-investments in SLM differ considerably, showing that bridging the institutional micro–macro gap is crucial to co-investments. Most factors are related to the wider governance context and to different perceptions among micro- and macro-level actors as to the critical pre-conditions to co-investment in SLM. Improving governance at all institutional levels, capacity building and enhancing a common understanding on barriers to SLM is required. Results for the private sector reveal that economic bottlenecks limit possibilities to co-invest in SLM, and that enabling policies in the public sphere are required to trigger private investments. Hence, the potential for co-investments in SLM is available in Ethiopia at micro- and meso-level and within the private sector, but profound commitment and fundamental policy changes at the macro-level are required to exploit this potential.