Safeguarding and restoring biodiversity

Why it’s material

The UN Biodiversity Summit in September 2020 highlighted the urgency of action at the highest levels in support of a post- 2020 global biodiversity framework that contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and places the global community on a path towards ‘living in harmony with nature’ – the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. Science tells us that about 25% of our assessed plant and animal species are threatened by human actions, with a million species facing extinction, many within decades. In addition, US$44 trillion of economic value generation – over half the world’s total gross domestic product (GDP) – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and, as a result, exposed to risks from nature loss. As our primary input, woodfibre is a renewable natural resource, Sappi depends on ecosystem services such as healthy soils, clean water, pollination and a stable climate. Accordingly, biodiversity is a key focus area.

How this issue links to other aspects of our business

Our global priority SDGs


Our top ten risks

4 Sustainability expectations
9 Climate change

Our strategic fundamentals

  • Grow our business
  • Drive operational excellence

The global forces shaping our Thrive25 strategy

  • The move towards a circular economy
  • Climate change continuing to impact
    businesses and reshape societies
  • Resource scarcity and growing concern for natural capital




Biodiversity is the foundation of our business and we work to enhance it on our lands and promote awareness of the importance of this issue among our stakeholders.


Human activity is eroding the world’s ecological foundations

1 Source: World Economic Forum https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/5-reasons-whybiodiversity- matters-human-health-economies-business-wellbeingcoronavirus- covid19-animals-nature-ecosystems/



Proclaimed nature reserves are areas that are formally gazetted as protected areas. The Biodiversity Stewardship Scheme run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) recognises different levels of protection, depending on the commitment of the landowner. The category of nature reserve is the highest level of protection that can be awarded to an area . All stewardship projects are based on partnerships, between landowners, provincial conservation authorities and NGOs, which are developed to secure biodiversity. Stewardship agreements compiled between provincial conservation authorities and land owners recognise the land owner as the custodian of biodiversity and will ensure the land is managed and protected in a way that will conserve its biodiversity.

Our approach

In South Africa, where we are one of the country’s major landowners, we have a particular responsibility to manage biodiversity in accordance with best practice principles. Of our 394,000 hectares of owned and leased land, approximately one third is managed for biodiversity conservation.

We entrench our commitment to biodiversity by:

Key developments in 2020

We signed up to Business for Nature’s call to action, a global coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and business groups including the International Chamber of Commerce, WWF, We Mean Business, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Business for Nature’s campaign ‘Nature Is Everyone’s Business’ has particular relevance for Sappi, given that our business is dependent on sustainably sourced woodfibre.

We made progress in terms of our Thrive25 target by addressing our first biodiversity objective underpinning this task – understanding what types of vegetation are present on our plantations, as well as their importance value. This enables managers to develop appropriate management plans for implementation. It is also important, from a conservation management perspective, to identify those vegetation types that are least protected, in order to prioritise efforts to safeguard the vegetation type from possible extinction.

Our potential contribution to conserving vegetation types at the provincial level can be calculated by comparing what is present on Sappi property with the vegetation types in the province.

Maintaining healthy ecosystem services

Revitalising a watershed in Finland

Kirkniemi Mill, located in a lakeside city just one hour’s drive from Helsinki, produces far more than exceptional coated papers destined for high-quality printers. Thanks to a project with the Länsi-Uusimaa Water and Environment Association, the mill is also supporting the revitalisation of threatened aquatic species in the nearby Mustionjoki River.

The project involves building fish passages to restore salmon stocks and freshwater pearl mussel populations in the river, which belongs to the Karjaanjoki watershed that provides Kirkniemi Mill with one of its most important raw materials, water.

The four power plant dams around the watershed have acted as an especially tough barrier to salmon fish migration. All are in the area of the Mustionjoki River, which flows from Lake Lohjanjärvi to the Gulf of Finland. By building the fish passages, the project enables salmon to bypass the dams on their important journey to and from the Gulf. Similarly, the passages also benefit the unique population of freshwater pearl mussels that have been threatened by the dams.

Project activities are part of the European Commission’s Freshabit programme to improve the ecological status, management and sustainable use of freshwater habitats. With its scenic lakeside vistas and old ironworks reflecting Finland’s proud industrial heritage, this project, co-funded by Sappi, also supports the recreational and tourist value of the region. Together, we’re revitalising a watershed that is important to all Finns – especially the 8,500 owners of summer cottages around the lake in addition to permanent residents.

Connecting with nature

Nature reserves are becoming more and more important in an increasingly urbanised world. Only by spending time in protected places do we have a sense of how rich our countryside could be. Without such benchmarks, we lose all sense of what we should cherish. We also lose all sense of the wild and our connection to it. Sappi Forests participates in the national stewardship programme through which we have seven proclaimed nature reserves on our land including:

Every year, we provide the Endangered Wildlife Trust with feedback on the numbers and locations of various species.

Supporting conservation in North America

In North America, SFI®, to which Sappi belongs, is deploying trail cameras (31 study areas to date) to survey carnivore species in areas across the state of Maine to assess the variation in occupancy probabilities between different forest stand types and ages, harvest histories, landscape configuration, latitudes, and other anthropogenic influences to investigate how timber harvesting may influence carnivore distributions of conservation interest. Our support of the SFI®s’ actions includes support for the Ruffed Grouse Society that creates healthy forest habitat for the benefit of ruffed grouse, American Woodcock and other forest wildlife. We also support the University of Minnesota Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative that offers continuing education opportunities to forestry and natural resource professionals in a broad range of fields.