Company history

​Company history

Sappi celebrates 80 years of intentional change.

Behind our 80-year history, celebrated in 2016, is a tale of how a traditional pulp and paper company has evolved to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world.

Our story speaks of an evolutionary journey that has driven our transformation as a global manufacturer into a diversified business with woodfibre at our core.

Back in time, an historic moment occurred when South African Pulp and Paper Industries Limited was established on 17 December 1936. Our name was soon abbreviated to 'SA Pulp', which later became commonly known as Sappi.

From the start, our initial hopes of manufacturing paper from straw at our first mill, Enstra in Springs, east of Johannesburg, sowed the seeds for an 'intentional evolution' – a purposeful effort to gradually adapt and transform in line with market requirements and best practice to ensure a sustainable future.

This resilient approach became part of our DNA. Today, Sappi is a diverse business, with operating units and sales offices on six continents and customers in over 150 countries. And we have a promising future.

As the world is changing, so are we. Our journey is one of ongoing, purposeful change to retain our foothold as a world leader and influential market player in our areas of expertise.
Steve Binnie, Chief Executive Officer, Sappi Limited

The past eight decades have been marked by evolutionary change and transformation. Given our focus on diversification and profitable growth, the next 80 years and beyond will undoubtedly continue in the same vein.

Growth beyond pulp and paper increases profits
Good news for investors is that more profitable growth is expected, as we continue our intentional efforts to diversify and transform in line with changing markets. Graphic paper, best known for use in offices and in glossy magazines, is no longer our only forte. We are also the world leader in the production of specialised cellulose for use in the manufacture of viscose staple fibre (VSF). We are a force to be reckoned with in the global packaging and speciality paper market (ranging from labels to flexible packaging, silicone base paper, liner applications, grease proof paper and the use of release paper as a cast in the production of synthetic leather).

More recently, we have become involved in another exciting product segment in the pursuit of new business opportunities in the broader woodfibre field. In 2014, we patented a world-first, low-cost process for the production of nanocellulose (cellulose fibres from wood, on an ultra small nano level). This is a groundbreaking new scientific field with untapped potential in a market that is yet to be fully explored.

On another 'new business' level, we are exploring various energy opportunities through the use of biomass as a fuel source to counter the use of fast depleting fossil fuels and the related issue of CO₂ emissions.

Our global activity extends to three continents, selling millions of tons of high quality products to customers all over the world.

There’s much more to Sappi than just paper. Our products find uses in thousands of applications, from paper and packaging to textiles and laminates.

Our senior team members are committed to leading us to success – find out more about their careers and extensive experience.

Discover the values that guide us in our everyday practices, inform our decisions and lead us in our strategic plans for the future.

Technology is at the heart of our business – discover how we’re making breakthroughs and discoveries that enrich lives.

Sappi has almost 12,500 employees in over 20 countries and manufacturing operations on three continents. Learn more about our locations around the world.