About our theme

Our global theme for 2021 was ‘Advance’, reflecting the fact that we moved forward from the Covid-19 pandemic during which we all had to adapt to a new way of doing business, a different way of being in the world.

This Sappi Southern Africa Corporate Citizenship Report develops the theme of ‘Advance’ further by focusing on navigation. In doing so, we demonstrate how we are mapping our way forward in a manner that aligns with our priority UN SDGs and highlights the role we are playing in shaping a thriving world.

Mapping our UN SDG journey

  • 2016

  • 2017 – 2018

  • 2019

  • 2020

  • 2021


The United Nations (UN) officially launches the bold, transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The new Agenda calls on countries to begin efforts to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the next 15 years.

2017 – 2018

We map our Prosperity, People and Planet commitments to the UN SDGs. This is made easier by the fact that we signed up to the UN Global Compact (UNGC) in 2008 and since then, have been working to incorporate the UNGC’s Ten Principles across all our business operations and supply chains. The Ten Principles cover environment, labour, human rights and anti-corruption.


We realise that we need to integrate these commitments more closely into our everyday activities. We establish a working group drawn from colleagues across all regions to prioritise the SDGs most relevant to our business, develop related action plans and translate them into specific business targets on a global and regional level.


We implement the five-year targets and action plans for each region under our Thrive25 strategy which is based on our purpose:

Sappi exists to build a thriving world by unlocking the power of renewable resources to benefit people, communities and the planet.


We report on our priority goals, transparently indicating where we have met our goal and where we have fallen behind.

Do the SDGs really matter?

Why does aligning with the SDGs matter? Does what we’re doing make any difference? These are questions we continually ask ourselves. And the answer we arrive at again and again is:

Yes, the SDGs really do matter.

They matter because we live in an interdependent, interconnected world where we rely on other people and on ecosystems to progress – and thrive.

Millions of people, in South Africa and around the world, live in poverty and go to bed hungry every night. Many still lack opportunities for education. Clean water and access to sanitation facilities continue to be challenges.

Our ecosystems are deteriorating at an alarming rate, with over one million plant and animal species at risk of extinction. Climate change is continuing to impact lives and livelihoods everywhere.

The SDGs matter because if every individual and organisation works to help realise the ambitions embodied in the SDGs, we can achieve a more sustainable present and future – in other words, a thriving world. And that benefits all of us.

You’ll find details of how we are helping to achieve this throughout the report.

Plantations (owned and leased)


159,000 hectares


235,000 hectares

Approximately 136,000 ha of land are set aside and managed by Sappi Forests to conserve the natural habitat and biodiversity.

Please click on the dots on the map for more information.



93,000 m3 sawn timber



210,000 tons of unbleached chemical pulp for own consumption

110,000 tons of mechanical pulp for own consumption

240,000 tons of kraft linerboard

255,000 tons of dissolving pulp



155,000 tons of neutral sulphite semi-chemical pulp for own consumption

200,000 tons of corrugating medium



60,000 tons of bleached bagasse pulp for own consumption

110,000 tons of office and tissue paper



800,000 tons of dissolving pulp



89,000 tons of waste paper collection and recycling for own consumption



Shaw Research Centre, Howick

  • Propagation techniques
  • Seed technology
  • Silviculture
  • Tree biotechnology
  • Tree breeding

SSA Technology Centre, Tshwane

  • Chemical sciences
  • Environmental sciences
  • Fibre processing
  • Paper science

Sappi Dissolving Pulp Centre of Excellence, Umkomaas

  • Applications testing
  • Fundamental cellulose properties


Commercial nurseries

(Clan, Richmond)

(Escarpment, Ngodwana)

Rooted cuttings of pine and eucalypt species

Research nurseries

KwaMbonambi and Tweedie
(Shaw Research Centre)

A - for forests
B - for climate

Alex Thiel
Chief Executive Officer, Sappi Southern Africa

Message from our CEO

Dear stakeholders,

Sappi’s vision is of a thriving world, one in which our sustainable business meets the evolving needs of our employees, communities, customers and partners.

To achieve this vision, we have identified priority United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which help us to navigate our way forward. This report sets out the markers we have passed on the way.

Given the high levels of poverty and education inequality in South Africa, we have identified SDG1: No Poverty and SDG4: Quality Education as priority goals for Sappi Southern Africa (SSA). In terms of these SDGs, we are focused not just on handing out, but on making a positive social impact by giving people a hands-up. We do so by helping to develop small and medium enterprises (SMEs), by providing opportunities and resources for income generation and community upliftment, together with training that helps people become part of our country’s mainstream economy.

We also invest significantly in all aspects of the education value chain – from Early Childhood Development (ECD) to technical training at our own Skills Centres. Our employees are recognised for their problem solving, resilience and collaborative spirit and we continued to invest in their development in 2021, with each employee benefitting from an average of 67 training hours.

Any South African who has lived through droughts and water restrictions will understand the importance of SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation. We are proud to have partnered with the World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) on a Water Stewardship agreement aimed at improving water security in the uMkhomazi catchment area in KwaZulu-Natal.

Climate change and associated shifts in weather patterns are having profound impacts on our world. In line with our commitment to SDG7: Renewable and Clean Energy and SDG13: Climate Action, we are steadily moving away from the use of fossil fuel and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the researchers and scientists at Sappi Forests are finding innovative, leading-edge ways to overcome the challenges of climate change.

The first principle of SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, is safety. Accordingly, I am pleased to report that our people achieved the best-ever lost-time injury frequency rate (LTIFR). In addition, our people heeded the South African Government’s call to vaccinate against Covid-19, with a vaccination rate of 91% achieved by year-end. I was also delighted by the enthusiastic manner in which all Sappi people embraced our Project Mafube (Sesotho for ‘dawning of a new day’) aimed at driving down costs.

We aligned with the aims of the circular economy and SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production, by beneficiating 70% of the solid waste we generated in FY2021. Throughout our operations, we continue to focus on enhancing efficiency.

SDG15: Life on Land has particular resonance for SSA, given our extensive land holdings and the fact that our primary input is woodfibre. Without a sustainable supply of this valuable resource, we would not be in business. We see this SDG both as a moral responsibility and one which makes sound business sense. We are steadily increasing the amount of certified fibre supplied to our mills and working to extend certification to smallholders. We are also involved in a number of partnerships and innovative projects on our land (described in more detail in SDG15).

Sustainability drives our business model. So too, do the partnerships that underpin much of our SDG work and those detailed in this report under SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals. I’m sure readers of the report will agree with me that these partnerships will help us to chart our way forward to a thriving world.

Our business, our country and our world have all been through turbulent, challenging times in the past year. However, our great people have added real value. Through their efforts we have stayed on course.

I know I can count on them and our other stakeholders to ensure we continue to chart a steady course going forward.