Vigourexplore our theme

Lizards are estimated to have been around for 240 million years. Little wonder, given that they make use of a variety of antipredator adaptations, including venom, camouflage, reflex bleeding and the ability to sacrifice and regrow their tails. What’s more, as with other reptiles, the skin of lizards is covered in overlapping scales made of keratin, providing protection from the environment and reducing water loss through evaporation. This characteristic enables them to thrive in some of the driest deserts on earth.

Vigour, strength and adaptability have ensured lizards’ ability to thrive over the course of time.

So, too, at Sappi, our commitment to growing our business and maintaining a healthy balance sheet, has sustained us for almost 90 years. We are vigorous in our commitment to deliver on our Thrive strategy, including by reducing exposure to graphic paper markets while investing for growth in our target markets and capitalising on our leadership position in pulp supply to the lyocell market.

Evolveexplore our theme

Very little in nature is static – everything is constantly changing and evolving. One miraculous example of this is the metamorphosis of the egg, the caterpillar (larva) and the chrysalis (pupa) into the adult butterfly. This process embodies fresh ideas, renewal and unexpected outcomes.

The caterpillar’s new form as a butterfly opens new horizons, but also new risks, particularly in the form of climate change. Butterflies are particularly sensitive to environmental changes like climatic shifts. That is because they are strictly adapted to certain environmental conditions and their development depends on certain larval food plants and specific microhabitat structures.

In Sappi’s case, climate change presents both risks and opportunities. We are addressing short- and long-term physical and transitional climate risks identified through processes outlined by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to build resilience. In addition, we are determined, as a socially responsible business, to play our part in ensuring a just transition in South Africa as the country faces the reality of reducing its dependence on coal.

We are also determined to accelerate our science-based decarbonisation trajectory which we see as an opportunity to future-proof our business. So too, are the opportunities presented by evolving customer needs and legislation – notably growing demand for sustainable packaging, based on low-carbon impact, together with demand for more sustainable textile fibres.

We cannot achieve our vision of a thriving world without an evolving response to climate change. By collaborating with a broad range of stakeholders we are working to achieve energy security and climate resilience and transform our vision into reality.

Postureexplore our theme

Beauty and confidence. Pride and upright posture. These attributes have meant that many cultures over the ages have associated peacocks with royalty and power.

This image is appropriate to Sappi because we too, can stand tall with pride when we consider our past achievements and drive to create not just enterprise value, but value for our people and for communities.

We have achieved enterprise value through our ability to be nimble and optimise profitability in ever-changing markets, reshaping our products and processes to create value and growth for our own business and our customers. We continue to offer our customers a broad range of solutions based on the power of renewable resources that enable them to achieve their sustainability goals and contribute to the low-carbon, circular economy. In doing so, we have continued to focus on treading more lightly on the Planet.

Creating value for our people and communities is underpinned by the structures and programmes we have established which facilitate open, authentic communication, by our ongoing investment in training, development and transformative community programmes, as well as by our collaborative partnerships focused on workable solutions to industry challenges.

Our commitment to delivering sustainable value to our stakeholders is based on our focus on living our values at all times: At Sappi we do business safely with integrity and courage, making smart decisions which we execute with speed.

Diving deeper into our,
performance and prospects

Fortifyexplore our theme

Hermit crabs are shapeshifters, moulting as they grow, continually shedding their exoskeletons and growing new ones. As their exoskeletons are fragile, they need shells for protection. Rather than produce their own shell, as they grow, they use shells abandoned by other marine creatures. This process is not a one-off, but continues throughout their lifespan, depending on water temperature, habitat and species.

Many species will enhance their chances of survival by encouraging anemones to attach to their shell, as the latter’s stinging tentacles may deter predators. The crabs even transfer the anemones from shell to shell when they move house.

We can draw parallels with Sappi, fortified as we are by our iterative Thrive strategy and by our agility in responding to changes in our operating context to emerge stronger and better positioned for growth. This process is underpinned by ongoing engagement with our stakeholders, whose input helps us shape our response to our environment as we collaborate to build a thriving world.

Balanceexplore our theme

Bubbles are things of fragility, wonder – and balance. That’s because the inward surface tension forces of the water film are exactly balanced by the outward-pushing pressure of the air inside.

Blowing more air in to make a bigger bubble means more air pressure inside and also means the bubble must get thinner in the process, because there is only so much water to go around. Should one keep blowing more air in, the film eventually won’t have enough reserve water to spread out into a bigger surface, and the ultimate catastrophe occurs: the bubble bursts.

The success of Sappi’s business is also based on balance. This includes continuous capital prioritisation as we look to reduce costs and grow the business while sustaining a healthy balance sheet. It involves reshaping our product portfolio to meet changing market needs and taking advantage of growth opportunities while being mindful of the risks. It means balancing the needs of people and communities with our responsibility to our shareholders.

As we move forward into the future, we know we can rely on the expertise and passion of our people and the ongoing cooperation of our stakeholders to maintain this balance and drive sustainable value creation.

Connectexplore our theme

Some mushrooms are bioluminescent, due to luciferins, the same compounds that make fireflies light up at night. This ability is used to attract insects which then spread the mushroom spores elsewhere in the forest, allowing the fungi to reproduce.

But that’s not where connection ends. Beneath every forest and wood lies a complex network of roots and fungi that connects trees and plants to one another. This network – sometimes called the Wood Wide Web – is almost 500 million years old and is vital for most plants on earth. Trees and plants obtain nutrients that the fungi acquire from the soil, such as nitrogen and phosphorus by means of enzymes that the trees do not possess. In return, the fungi receive carbon-rich sugar from the roots of the trees.

This symbiotic relationship enables all connected organisms to thrive.

Similarly, at Sappi our connection with our stakeholders shapes our work to build a thriving world. This connection enables us to meet the changing needs of every employee at Sappi and to offer our partners the renewable innovation they need to be successful. By understanding and connecting with community needs, we drive positive social impact, playing a role beyond making and selling.

Like mushrooms, our business is a living organism – growing, adapting and evolving in a continually shifting context. As we shape our response to this context, we prioritise value creation for all stakeholders.


Sappi and the SDGs

“Embracing the UN SDGs is not just our commitment to a better world, it’s our strategic investment in a future where social responsibility and business success converge thereby securing a sustainable legacy for generations to come.”

Tracy Wessels

Sappi Limited Group Head Investor Relations and Sustainability

Q&A with Dr Tracy Wessels, Group Head Investor Relations and Sustainability

Dr Tracy Wessels previously headed up the Centre of Excellence for DP at Saiccor Mill for several years and is now Group Head Investor Relations and Sustainability.


There has been a proliferation of sustainability standards and compliance requirements in recent years. These have been issued by bodies like the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), the JSE, the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) and are embedded in the German Supply Chain Act. Are these hindering or helping the achievement of the SDGs?

On the one hand, the reporting obligations being placed on companies through these standards look set to become increasingly onerous. On the other hand, it appears that reporting bodies are looking to synchronise and align with pre-existing standards like the GRI. This clearly stands Sappi in good stead, as we have been reporting against the GRI since 2008.

One of the key common denominators of the new reporting standards is the concept of double materiality which acknowledges that a company should report simultaneously on sustainability matters that are firstly, financially material in influencing business value and secondly, material to the market, the environment and people. Sappi welcomes this approach and we are increasingly using it to drive our strategic sustainability work. Assessing the broader impacts of our operations enhances our reporting on both internal and external issues to various stakeholders. It also deepens our understanding of the risks and opportunities that amplify or detract from value in the broadest sense. This in turn means we can better plan strategic direction, develop tangible, measurable key performance indicators and link these to operational development.


The UN recently released its first Global Stocktake, an assessment of progress made toward mitigating global warming since the Paris Agreement in 2015. The key takeaway message is that we are not on track to meet the target of the Paris Agreement. What is your view on this?

The global economic crisis has meant that many countries, particularly in Europe, are scaling back on climate ambitions. While understandable, in the face of devastating climate events, the world should not lose sight of the urgent need to reduce GHG emissions. The report highlights the need to reduce GHG emissions from 2019 levels by 43%, 60% and 84% by 2030, 2035 and 2050, respectively, to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

Sappi’s key countries of operation appear committed to their long-term GHG reduction goals. With reference to the 84% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 outlined by the Global Stocktake, Canada and the European Union have committed to net zero by the same date, as has South Africa in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submission (updated in 2021). The US has set an economy-wide goal of net zero emissions by no later than 20501.

Unfortunately, in our own operations, production curtailments significantly impeded our operational efficiency in FY2023, causing us to fall short of several of our energy-related targets which are intensity based. We remain committed to meeting our science-based decarbonisation targets and intend reducing our emission intensity by 41.5% by 2030. We have developed a robust transition plan with associated capital allocation. Our view is that decarbonisation is not a choice, but an essential component of our long-term success and viability as a business.

Among the actions proposed to achieve these targets, the Stocktake recommends preserving forests and addressing non-CO2 emissions: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses were responsible for 22% of global GHG emissions in 2019. About half of these emissions are attributable to deforestation. This means we can expect greater global focus on deforestation, which gives us a competitive advantage, as our woodfibre supply chains are deforestation-free.

1The goal is on a net basis, including both sources of emissions and removals. It does not include emissions from international aviation or international shipping.


Sappi reports transparently against SDG-related 2025 targets in the Group Sustainability Report, disclosing whether targets are on track or not. Has there been any fallout from stakeholders when targets are not met?

One of Sappi’s strategic fundamentals is ‘enhance trust’. Reporting as we do strengthens our relationship with our stakeholders. Our customers in particular need to know they can rely on the information we provide as they look to meet the needs of eco-conscious consumers around the world and promote sustainability in their own supply chains. This is particularly important because consumers are faced with a wealth of claims on the ‘green’ nature of products. This has become such a problem that there are regulations pending around the world – like the European Commission’s directive on green claims – aimed at counteracting ‘greenwashing’.

In FY2023, while we made significant strides in achieving our People targets and attained our best ever safety performance, we fell behind in our planet targets. We acknowledge that sustainability is a journey and that unexpected external and internal challenges will impede our progress. Through our focus on innovation and agility we will adapt where necessary to ensure continuous improvement. Our firm view is that transparency heightens engagement and builds loyalty and that our stakeholders understand that we are steadfast in our commitment to meet or exceed all our Thrive (2025) sustainability goals.


Which of the Planet targets have been the most difficult to meet?

As discussed above, production curtailments during the year have severely impacted our planet targets which are based on an intensity metric (performance per mass unit of product produced). These include energy intensity, GHG emission intensity and solid waste intensity. Notwithstanding the fact that our performance against these targets was poor, our absolute GHG emissions and solid waste sent to landfill were in fact lower than the prior year with emissions substantially lower. This is of course due to our low operating rates which had an adverse impact on our profitability and is not at all sustainable for our business. This clearly demonstrates the interconnectivity and trade-offs between Prosperity and Planet. Absolute and intensity targets represent two different approaches to setting goals for environmental sustainability. Each approach has its trade-offs, and the choice between them depends on various factors, including the nature of the business, the industry and the desired environmental outcomes. Ultimately, the choice between absolute and intensity sustainability targets depends on the specific goals of the organisation, the industry context and the desired balance between overall impact reduction and efficiency improvements. Our underlying ambition is to reduce our impact on nature while maintaining a sustainable balance between People, Prosperity and Planet by doing more with less. We have therefore selected intensity metrics as the appropriate measure for some of our Planet indicators which drives us to grow our circular and renewable product solutions with an unrelenting focus on operational efficiencies.


Has aligning with the SDGs amplified enterprise value?

The SDGs can be difficult to grasp and not everyone realises there are many sub-indicators underpinning each SDG. For example, the indicators under SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth are broad, ranging from the promotion of a safe working environment; to equal pay for equal work and annual growth rates of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita; among others. Before aligning with priority SDGs and establishing our related targets, we established a global working group which analysed each SDG and associated sub-indicators.

Following this approach has helped to shape our response to key material issues and made the concept of sustainability more tangible for our own people and our external stakeholders.

It has also helped to build our brand and enhance our reputation. A recent study by Deloitte indicates that one in four consumers (26%) are prepared to pay more to protect biodiversity or for sustainable products and packaging (24%) or for products or services of suppliers that respect human rights or commit to ethical working practices (25%).1

In a changing talent landscape, articulating our sustainability journey through the SDGs is important for attracting millennials (those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s) and Gen-Zs (those born from 1997 onwards) to the workforce. This is highlighted by another Deloitte study which found that Gen-Zs and millennials continue to demand greater climate action from their employers and believe some have deprioritised sustainability strategies in recent years. They also see a critical role for employers to provide the necessary skills training to prepare the workforce for the transition to a low-carbon economy.2 Overall, aligning with the SDGs has helped to mature our sustainability strategy as we have transitioned from compliance and reactive measures to protect our licence to operate to a more purpose-driven position. This has anchored the Sappi culture and business model in sustainable thinking.

Taking a broader view, our world today is battling with the lingering effects of Covid-19, a high cost of living, geopolitical instability and extreme weather events. This means it is more important than ever before to be united by a common framework and universal set of goals if we are to achieve a thriving world.