Evolve

Evolution in the natural world is a slow process. But in the hyperconnected world in which we live and work, it’s
fast – and becoming faster all the time. As an example, twenty years ago, very few people had ever heard of the ‘Internet of Things’. Ten years ago, the term ‘Industry 4.0’ had not yet been coined. At the start of 2020, few people had paid attention to terms such as coronavirus, social distancing, lockdowns or infection waves. Yet today, these terms are part of our everyday vocabulary, showing just how fast the world around us is changing.

In response to our rapidly changing landscape, five years ago, we embarked on a strategy of intentional evolution, which involved diversifying our product portfolio in higher margin segments. By 2020, despite market challenges, we had essentially met and in many ways, exceeded this ambition.

Evolution is based on a series of events, processes and responses. Around the world, people are responding to natural resources constraints by seeking responsible alternatives to non-renewables and solutions that are truly sustainable from seed to final product.

We are responding to these needs by building on our success in intentional evolution to accelerate an enhanced journey of evolution aligned with our Thrive25 strategy. We are doing so from a foundation based on a coalition of diverse perspectives and expertise; as well as a history of seeking out and investing in breakthroughs that enable lasting outcomes for our partners and a lighter footprint on the world. We are building on these to ensure that every solution we create supports our goal of making everyday products more sustainable and that we accelerate meaningful change.

Reimagine

Stars form when celestial clouds collapse, feeding a rotating disc of gas and dust into a dense, hot central core. Amongst other things, pulsating stars give off carbon, a key ingredient for life as we know it. From chaos, something beautiful – and essential – is created.

We can view this as a metaphor for the coronavirus pandemic that infected and affected people regardless of nationality, class or wealth, leaving intense disruption in its wake. However, it also ushered in a global drive to reimagine our way of being on the planet. A new agenda for change is emerging, gaining traction and raising questions that will not go away.

Questions like: How do we reimagine a collective future where changed behaviours will allow us to live more in balance with nature than before? How do we

maintain and even intensify the sense of connection, caring and community that was one of the unexpected, but welcome, impacts of the pandemic? How do we deal with the uncertainty on the horizon when future surges of Covid-19 occur?

At Sappi we are taking bold, decisive action to respond to these challenges by extracting the full potential of trees and woodfibre to develop practical innovations for everyday impact and innovate what we should, not just what we can. We’re also establishing and maintaining proactive dialogue with all our stakeholders as well as working with and supporting local communities.

In doing so, we can not only create a more sustainable future, but also unlock significant long-term value for all our stakeholders.

Resilience

Rocks are the ultimate symbol of resilience. They are fused together over time from solid crystals of different minerals. These natural processes bind them all together, imparting strength and resilience. But even rocks are shaped and reshaped over time by natural forces like water, wind and sun.

They’re a reminder that none of us are impervious to the global forces shaping our world. Forces like climate change, urbanisation, social inequality and of course, the new reality brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and Covid-19.

We’ve proven our resilience to succeed in the ‘new normal’ and we will continue to do so as we work to accelerate our decarbonisation journey, meet the changing needs of rapidly urbanising populations while managing our environmental footprint and promoting a diverse, inclusive workforce.

At Sappi we operate across different geographies, meeting the needs of customers from New Zealand to New Mexico, but our common purpose makes us stronger and more resilient: Sappi exists to build a thriving world by unlocking the power of renewable resources to benefit people, communities, and the planet. This is our inspiration and our call to create a brighter future for the world and for our business.

Emerge

Collectively, the world is drawing a deep breath as we slowly emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and impact of Covid-19.

During the crisis, the safety of our people was our top priority. After which, like many enterprises across the world, our underlying goal was economic survival. To achieve this, we focused on the preservation of liquidity, lowering costs by deferring non-critical capex projects and postponing some annual maintenance shuts. We also took commercial downtime across all segments as required, in order to match supply to demand and prevent the build-up of inventory.

The verb ‘emerge’ is derived from the classical Latin ēmergere, meaning ‘to rise out or up’. We are proud

to say that we are rising from the impact of Covid-19 with strong growth in sales and profitability for the packaging and speciality papers segment, quickly recovering dissolving pulp market and steady month-on-month improvement for graphic papers.

As OneSappi we are steely in our determination to emerge from survival mode back onto a growth curve. A curve based on our strategy of diversifying our product portfolio into higher margin and growing segments – a strategy fully justified during the events of the past year.

Doing so is challenging, but we believe we can realise our vision of a thriving world by collaborating with all our stakeholders to create solutions for our collective needs and emerge stronger than ever before.

Momentum

Linear momentum is defined as the product of a system’s mass multiplied by its velocity. The greater an object’s mass or the greater its velocity, the greater its momentum. In other words, momentum is about both magnitude and direction.

It can be difficult to maintain momentum in times of profound change or crisis, but it’s important to do so. That’s because action creates movement which in turn can create unanticipated opportunities.

Recognising this, at Sappi we responded to the coronavirus pandemic and Covid-19 in order to keep our forward momentum. We swiftly implemented a comprehensive Covid-19 action plan that ensured the health and safety of our employees and enabled us to operate in a safe, uninterrupted manner where demand permitted. Working closely with our

customers and suppliers we systematically increased activity and output in response to improved market demand. Our support for local communities helped mitigate the impact of the pandemic and the ensuing socio-economic consequences on them.

Looking ahead, we are confident that we can accelerate our momentum to navigate forward: We have the mass in the form of wide-ranging expertise, extensive infrastructure, strong foundation of research and development, together with our range of sustainable solutions produced from renewable woodfibre. And we have the velocity in the form of our ambitious but achievable Thrive25 strategy, which allows us to take advantage of the changing dynamics between the environment, consumers and the products they require. Above all, our passionate, committed people provide the impetus to power us forward.

Our operating context

Our external operating environment presents risks and opportunities, impacts our ability to generate value and informs our response to our stakeholders as well as our approach to material matters. We expect to see the global forces identified under our Thrive25 strategy to continue until at least 2025. Set out below are specific issues that arose in 2020, the one that dominated all others, of course, being Covid-19.



  Current issues     Our response  
 

The fall-out of Covid-19

   

Please refer to the infographic here.

 
 

The purchasing power of Millennials and Gen Z-ers continues to grow

   

Our innovative solutions and planet-positive actions such as our commitment to the science-based targets initiative and Business for Nature’s ‘Nature Is Everyone’s Business’ campaign, together with our shared value/social impact approach to doing business are widely communicated across social media.

 

Reducing carbon footprint and use of plastic

   

We have capitalised on the opportunity presented by responsible consumerism to expand our lightweight packaging to meet demands for products with a lower carbon footprint and eco-friendlier, natural alternatives. We are also expanding our dissolving pulp (DP) capacity at Saiccor Mill. As a fibre produced from natural and renewable resources, Verve provides the value chain with a sustainable choice not only within the broader textile sphere which includes cotton and polyester, but as a preferred sustainable choice within the DP market.

 
 

The pace of the development and adoption of new technologies continues to accelerate

   

We are taking advantage of new technologies and eco-friendlier processes to offer sustainable solutions that improve people’s lives.

 

Inequality, gender and social justice

   

The problems of systemic racism, gender-based violence and citizen exclusion came to the fore during 2020 in many geographies.

We draw on our history and culture as a South African company to ensure that our internal processes, policies and actions address these issues. As engaged corporate citizens, we commit to listening and ongoing learning.

Our focus on promoting a diverse, inclusive workplace is highlighted by the fact that under our Thrive25 SDG8: Decent work and economic growth target, we have established a target to increase the proportion of women in management roles.

 
 

Increased social need

   

The Covid-19 epidemic drove a rise in social need. We took decisive action to keep our staff and communities safe, also supporting people and their families if they did become ill.

The nature of our business is such that we support rural economies and rural communities, both of which were severely impacted by Covid-19. We created opportunities for skills development and local businesses and supported medical and social services as well as local clinics and hospitals, thereby helping to mitigate the impact of economic hardship. In line with our focus on social impact and shared value, we engaged more extensively with community leaders and community forums to ensure alignment of support and management of expectations.