2021 Sappi Southern Africa Corporate Citizenship Report
A magnetic compass needle lines itself up with the Earth’s magnetic field and points roughly north and south. Researchers have now discovered that birds use this magnetic field as they travel long distances over areas that do not have many landmarks, such as the ocean. Here’s how: A small spot on the beak of pigeons and some other birds contains magnetite. Researchers have also found some specialised cells in birds’ eyes that may help them see magnetic fields.
SDG1: No Poverty is the north star we are working towards. We are doing so by using the ‘compass’ of sensitive engagement with our stakeholders as we respond to their needs.
Why does this SDG matter?
Despite notable gains in reducing poverty post-apartheid, South Africa is
one of the most unequal societies in the world, with more than 50% of the
population living in poverty. Poverty levels have remained consistently
highest among women, black South Africans, people with disabilities and
those living in rural areas.1
We’re working to train people so that
they are better placed to make use of job
opportunities (see under SDG4: Quality
Education). We’re also sharing value by
helping to develop suppliers so that they
can provide both Sappi and other
businesses with goods and services,
thereby becoming part of the economy.
Read how below.
Developing local SMEs
In 2018, we launched a focused Enterprise and Supplier
Development (ESD) strategy and established a dedicated
ESD unit tasked with helping to incorporate small and
medium enterprises (SMEs) into the mainstream economy.
Since then we have made considerable progress: We have
successfully integrated 145 SMEs into the value chain
and in FY2021, spent over ZAR140 million with SMEs,
exceeding our set annual target by ZAR35 million. In the
process, 587 jobs were sustained by these active
The SMEs we supported supplied the following services:
Alien invasive plant management
Logistics and transportation
Plumbing and electrical, and
Wastepaper recycling through Sappi ReFibre.
Many SMEs lack the technical and engineering experience
and expertise, as well as the understanding of safety and
legal regulations needed to thrive in a competitive business
environment. Accordingly, we’re now collaborating more
closely with contractors and suppliers to transfer technical
skills. We’re also working with other institutions to achieve
this. Read more about it under SDG17: Partnerships for
A success story: Our alien invasive plant management programme
For Sappi: The protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, suppliers who understand our needs, better community engagement and reputation, as well as an enhanced BBBEE score.
A success story: Our alien invasive plant management programme
In South Africa, alien invasive species like bugweed, lantana, pompom weed and water hyacinth, to mention just a few, are a threat to biodiversity. Our mills are surrounded by extensive landholdings, where some of these species could previously be found.
In 2018, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) trained and mentored youths from communities close to our operations on the management of alien and invasive plant species. This initiative is an example of true community empowerment: There are now five legal business entities (32 trained youths) providing services to our pulp and paper mills, with five-year service contracts beginning in 2019 entered into with these SMEs. Apart from rendering an important environmental management service, the programme has created and sustained a total of 47 jobs in local communities. Between 2019 and 2021, we spent a total of ZAR12.2 million with these companies, some of which are now expanding their footprint beyond Sappi to offer services to other companies.
Supporting emerging farmers
Given the limited work opportunities for the rural youth and
women in particular, we are leveraging opportunities to
provide emerging farmers with access to land for produce.
Our forestry managers, community services officers and
ESD department specialists are working together with
partners (contractors, government departments and
agencies) to provide training, as well as administrative and
operational support and assistance.
For us, this makes sound business sense and is a good
example of shared value: Supporting agricultural projects
not only empowers others, it also enables us to investigate
our own expansion into supplementary agri-business
opportunities, by using these pilot projects as a testing
ground for the market.
One such example is the peanut farming venture started by
a group of women on our land. In 2018, Ms Ntombiyenkosi Mbuyazi and four other women started planting peanuts
on a newly planted Sappi compartment close to her
community at Shikishela in Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal.
Since then, Sappi has made more land available and
sponsored seeds. Currently, there are 20 participants
in the Palm Ridge project area. Our ESD unit is helping
participants to register the business as a co-operative.
The main objective of this is to gain access to funding and
“The women here are very proud of this project, and they have much to celebrate. With money made from this initiative of planting groundnuts, we are able to pay our children’s school fees.”
For participants: Free access to land and the potential to earn income.
For Sappi: Participants routinely weed while they plant. This saves weeding costs and time. What’s more, the roots of the peanut plants help to enrich the soil, as they have nitrogen fixing properties.
Partnering to supply food parcels
During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, many of our
neighbouring communities experienced food shortages. We
partnered with the Southern Lodestar Foundation, a registered
not-for-profit organisation and well-known retailer, the Spar
Group and Savithi Trading, one of our contractor partners, to
provide relief in the form of food parcels, nutritional porridge
We used our knowledge and access to rural community
networks to distribute 60,000 kilograms of A+ instant porridge
to vulnerable communities in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and
Mpumalanga during 2020, using the networks provided by
community health workers.
During Mandela Month in July 2021, this outreach programme
was again activated, especially when food shortages occurred
following the riots in KZN.
During this time, we joined forces with Savithi Trading
Company, one of our contractor partners, to distribute
1,500 kg of porridge. A further 3,000 kg of the porridge was
distributed by our teams of foresters and community relations
personnel, who worked closely with the Department of
Social Development to identify and distribute the porridge to
the child-headed households in our operational areas near
KwaMbonambi, inland near Ixopo and Bulwer and in the vicinity
of Greytown and surrounds.
In the communities of Umkomaas, Mandeni and Stanger
surrounding our three mills in KZN, our employees contributed
to food parcels which were distributed by local NGOs to people
who had been affected by food shortages, exacerbated by
the disruption of supply chains due to the unrest. Donations
were also made by staff from around the country to assist
communities who were left destitute by the civil unrest.
Leveraging the youth to drive social change
The communities close to our areas of operations are
characterised – as in many rural areas of southern Africa –
by high levels of poverty and unemployment.
To make a meaningful difference, we first had to understand
what challenges the various communities were dealing
with and identify any potential opportunities. Accordingly,
we commissioned a third party to conduct research in
neighbouring Sappi communities. Following this, in 2015,
a programme which identified social mobilisers, known as
the Abashintshi (‘the changers’ in isiZulu) was conceived.
This involved training formerly unemployed youth
volunteers in the following:
The Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) model which aims to empower community members to use what they have, instead of focusing on what they need or don’t have.
Youth life skills training.
Ifa Lethu (‘our heritage’) which documents the legacy of the elderly in the community in order to continue with successful practices and learn from mistakes.
Holiday programmes with children.
The Abashintshi programme has now been fully adopted
by Sappi in-house and we are helping to guide participants
on an individual basis to ensure that their unique skills and
interests are identified – whether they be entrepreneurial,
social or organisational.
Through this ongoing engagement, we hope to
achieve sustained access and to work closely with our
communities; conduct asset mapping audits to identify
gaps and determine potential investment areas. We
also want to ensure that Social Impact Programmes are
targeted, tailored and relevant to creating shared value,
positive social impact and promoting inclusivity and
The programme has achieved exponential growth over the past six years:
Assessing the impact of the Abashintshi
We use the Poverty Stoplight tool to assess the socio-economic impact of the Abashintshi
programmes in four key regions as set out in the representative examples below. With the
exception of the Saiccor Mill region, we began measurement in 2017. We have set out
data from 2018 when the Saiccor region was included. We measure 50 categories, ranging
from vaccination to entrepreneurial spirit and motivation. The figures for 2020 relate to
Income earnings above the poverty line
(Household income per month is greater than ZAR5,000, including grants.)
(The family eats enough beef/chicken/fish, milk, vegetables, fruits, rice/noodles/potato. They
have at least two meals per day and none of them are suffering from obesity or malnutrition.)
Access to drinking water
(The family has constant access to drinking water within the house or in the yard. The home
has a tap with running water that is clean and drinkable.)
(The house is a well-built structure. It is insulated against the weather and is fire resistant.
The doors are secure and family members feel safe. There may be a yard, or the plot may be
1. The results obtained in the Poverty Stoplight Socio-Economic Assessment have generally shown an improvement, although a marked decline was noted in some areas, which could be ascribed to the impacts of Covid-19.
First established: 1983
Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, Manguzi
near Kosi Bay in the north to Port Edward in the south,
inland as far as Ixopo and Nongoma.
Individuals, communities, land reform beneficiaries.
Timber farming is an attractive avenue of growth to
many farmers. However, the entry costs into this
form of agriculture are high (long growing cycle,
costs of seedlings and fertiliser, as well as harvesting
Individuals and communities make their land available
for planting eucalyptus trees. We provide growers with
sponsored seedlings, technical advice, a guaranteed
future income and interest-free loans.
At harvesting time, we buy the timber from the growers
and pay them a market-related price less the advance
payments they have received in preceding years.
Currently, the programme involves over 3,640 growers
and approximately 103 SMEs who are involved in
silviculture, harvesting, loading, short- and long-haul
All participants in the Sappi Khulisa value chain –
including land reform beneficiaries – can make use of
three Khulisa Ulwazi (meaning ‘growing knowledge’)
training centres which cover all aspects of forestry,
including core operational skills as well as safety, legal
compliance and business management.
In addition, qualified extension officers assist growers,
ensuring that planting is environmentally sensitive.
The total area currently managed under this
programme, which encompasses individual and
community tree farming, is 34,755 hectares (ha)
(FY2020: 32,660 ha). In 2021, under this programme,
225,509 tons of timber (2020: 284,038 tons) worth
some ZAR207 million (2020: ZAR232 million) was
delivered to our operations. Since 1995, a total
volume of 4,731,488 tons to the value of ZAR2.9 billion
has been purchased from small growers under this
Why the year-on-year drop in income and
This has to do with the rotation times.
Many growers are on their second or third growing
cycle. This doesn’t mean Sappi Khulisa is declining –
far from it. If you look at the hectares under cultivation,
you’ll see that they have increased by more than 2,000.
For Sappi: We need to supplement the woodfibre grown by Sappi Forests in order to meet the needs of our mills. Sappi Khulisa is now part of our core business.
For growers: Participation in Sappi Khulisa provides income and helps to develop entrepreneurial and agricultural skills.
“My success would not have been possible if it was not for the Sappi Khulisa team. They regularly keep in contact and physically visit me to drop off weighbridge tickets and offer me great advice on how to grow my forestry business. With forestry, once you get in, you will never want to come out – the benefits are worth working hard for!”
Bhekekile Ngema, 81, from Ngudwini, in the Zululand South District
What can I do to make a difference?
Local, as the saying goes, is
‘lekker’. When you buy local
goods and services, you’re
supporting and stimulating
the local economy, helping
to alleviate poverty and
helping to achieve Sappi’s
vision of a thriving world.