2020 Sappi Southern Africa Corporate Citizenship Report


According to the United Nations, water use has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. We need to refresh the way we conserve, manage, and distribute this precious resource.

What is this about?

Globally, one in three people live without sanitation, which causes unnecessary disease and death. Although huge strides have been made across the world regarding access to clean drinking water, lack of sanitation is undermining these advances. If we provide affordable equipment and education in hygiene practices, we can stop this senseless suffering and loss of life.

Why is this a priority goal and why does it matter?

For South Africa: The South African government is warning that the country could run out of water by 20304. South Africa is classified as a water-stressed country, receiving annual rainfall of 492 mm in comparison with 958 mm in the rest of the world. As our population grows, so does the demand for freshwater. At the same time, climate change is impacting our water resources.

For Sappi: Our pulp and paper operations are highly dependent on the use and responsible management of water resources. Water is used in all major process stages, including raw materials preparation (wood chip washing), pulp cooking, washing and screening, and paper machines (pulp slurry dilution and fabric showers). Water is also used for process cooling, materials transport, equipment cleaning, general facilities operations, and to generate steam for use in processes and on-site power generation and various other purposes.

As with all types of agriculture, our plantations rely on rainfall to grow.

4 https://www.enca.com/news/government-warns-sa-will-run-out-water-2030

We delineate riparian zones, ensuring that these are kept free from commercial trees and that corridors for wildlife are created.
Commercial forestry

Plantations account for 3% of total water use in South Africa, while agriculture and crop irrigation use approximately 60%.

What is Sappi doing about it?

Water management is included in our mill operational environmental management plans, which are reviewed and updated annually. We have prioritised water-use efficiency in our mills – for example, Vulindlela, our expansion project at Saiccor Mill, will result in this metric improving by 17%. Since 2014, we have reduced specific water usage by 18.1%.

We make water available to neighbouring communities, providing the Bhamjees informal settlement close to Ngodwana Mill with treated water. During the recent drought, Lomati Mill sent water tankers to the local community.

We have also established a water stewardship working group which is currently assessing the risk and mitigation actions related to all our mills and forestry operations, as well as to our neighbouring communities.

In addition, we are partnering with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa on a water stewardship project in the uMKhomazi catchment area.

Looking forward: Our Thrive25 target aligned with this SDG

Reduce specific water use by 18%

  • We strictly avoid spraying near watercourses.

  • We prevent erosion by using appropriate harvesting and extraction methods.

  • We regulate drainage and minimise erosion through the appropriate planning and construction of roads to ensure water run-off is not directed straight into rivers.

  • Our plantations are not irrigated, but use only rainwater.

How can I support this goal?

Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants – this slows evaporation, making more water available for absorption

Keep leftover water from cooked or steamed vegetables for the garden

Turn off the water while brushing your teeth, shaving, rinsing your razor or washing your hair

While you wait for water to warm up, collect the running water and use it to water the garden

Shower rather than bathing and stand in a shallow bucket while showering to collect the water. Use it to water the garden or flush the toilet

Eat less water-intensive foods: Our diets account for roughly half of all the water we use. All food has a water footprint, but some are much larger than others. Eating less beef, one of the most water-intensive foods, is a smart place to start. Shifting away from animal products to a plant-based diet can shrink your water footprint significantly