Building thriving communities through developing enterprises

Economic growth in communities stems from more people having access to decent work, able to earn a living through using their talents and skills. This growth leads to stronger, more resilient and successful communities – which in turn, helps us thrive as a company.

This desire to help our communities flourish, was one of the main reasons that Sappi’s dedicated Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) unit was established in 2018 – tasked with helping to incorporate small and medium enterprises (SMEs) into the mainstream economy.

This community support and supplier development has been further bolstered by the creation of a dedicated multidisciplinary team comprised of ESD, human resources and corporate communications members, in a forum known as the Community Management Committee (CMC) at its business units. The purpose of the CMC is to identify shared value opportunities that help identify and support local entrepreneurs as well as to promote the sourcing of goods and services from local suppliers where possible.

Our goal? Firstly, to build thriving local economies in the areas where we operate through the provision of capacity building programmes for SMEs focused on accessing markets, acquiring business and technical skills to ensure business sustainability and growth. With many SMEs lacking the technical and business experience needed to thrive in a competitive business environment, Sappi has stepped in to fill that gap.

Secondly, to provide procurement opportunities from our mill and forestry operations, which are sustainable. This will enable SMEs to become partners in our supply base.

Celebrating small thriving businesses

As we support the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and have prioritised SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) it is fitting that as we celebrate Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day on 27 June, that we salute two of the small business established with the help of Sappi.

Shatadi Toil (Pty) Ltd was established in 2019 after Sappi enlisted the services of an environmental consultant to train and mentor 51 unemployed youths in the effective management of alien invasive species at our mills. Shatadi Toil services the Sappi Ngodwana Mill in Mpumalanga, under the able leadership of Lerato Tau, a BSc Environmental Management Honors graduate, who emerged from the ESD programme as the new business owner.

Fast-tracked on a development programme focused on business principles of safety, productivity and quality, they have been able to maintain service levels and grow their business in terms of turnover and their employee numbers from 12 to 21, providing much needed employment in the poverty-stricken local communities.

The team at Shatadi Toil is going from strength to strength under the able leadership of Lerato Tau.

Lerato is geared to achieve her dream of becoming a dynamic and major player in the environmental management space. Through dedication and hard work, she intends to address some of the socio-economic challenges through job creation and skills transfer. Sappi’s ESD program continues to provide business support to reinforce management systems and further enable business expansion through networking with other corporates.

“The Sappi ESD programme has had a major impact on my business and my development, and I am thankful,” says Lerato.

Lerato Tau, a BSc Environmental Management Honors graduate, heads up Shatadi Toil.

Another example where entrepreneurial drive meets passion is Nhlanhla Phoswa Mhlekazi, affectionately known as Mhlekazi by his peers, who began his career as a forestry labour carrier driver in 1985. Seeing the opportunities offered by the forestry value chain, decided to start his own contracting company, Mhlekazi Forestry, in 2013. Today, he is one of the biggest silviculture contractors in the KwaZulu-Natal South district, with a five-year contract with Sappi, responsible for silviculture operations in the Richmond area, having grown from 50 to 80 employees.

Mhlekazi Forestry is responsible for Sappi’s silviculture operations in the Richmond area
and have grown from 50 to 80 employees.

“The Sappi team has played a crucial role in our growth and development, and have been instrumental in opening doors for our business, providing business support, guidance and encouragement. We truly value the support from Sappi,” says Mhlekazi.

Safety is an integral part of Mhlekazi Forestry, and Mhlekazi believes this has played a pivotal role in his business longevity. “Many of our peers that started with us have not sustained their business because they neglected safety in their operations. We prioritise and value safety in our business,” he says.

Mhlekazi believes in prioritising safety as a core value in his business.

Mhlekazi has a strong vision for his company and has started working closely with his children, Siphesihle, a forester by profession. He wants his daughter to follow in his footsteps as well. The future indeed looks bright for Mhlekazi Forestry.


For further information

Zelda Schwalbach
External Communications Lead
Sappi Southern Africa
Tel +27 (0)31 001 7300


About Sappi

Sappi is a leading global provider of powerful everyday materials made from woodfibre-based renewable resources. As a diversified, innovative and trusted leader focused on sustainable processes and products, we seek to support a more circular economy.

Sappi is powered by the expertise of more than 12,000 people worldwide; with headquarters in four key regions: South Africa, Europe, North America and Asia.

Locally, we have a footprint in Gauteng (head office), KwaZulu Natal (three mills, forestry operations and a shared services hub), Mpumalanga (two mills and forestry operations) and the Western Cape (sales office staff). Our product offering in SA include dissolving pulp, packaging and speciality papers, graphic papers and forestry products.

We also generate shared value in the communities in which we operate, by investing in skills training and SMME development to boost employment and grow the economy.

Sappi will continue to build a thriving world by acting boldly to support the planet, people and prosperity.