Sappi donates essential items and products for COVID-19 relief

Media Release

Rosebank, 20 April 2020

In an effort to provide some relief during the COVID-19 Coronavirus global pandemic, Sappi Southern Africa has made available several donations of scarce items such as; hand sanitiser, face masks, nutritional porridge and paper products, to reduce pressure on the National Government’s resources as well as to support the most vulnerable during these extraordinary times.

Following countrywide shortages in the supply of hand sanitiser, Sappi’s science and research centre based in Pretoria was able to refocus its efforts to produce the company’s first prototype hand sanitiser. This led to a partnership with a Johannesburg based company to produce 16,000 litres of Sappi hand sanitiser worth about R1million. Having been successful in these efforts, Sappi is now able to distribute the sanitiser to more than 80 community clinics and health care centres in the rural and peri-urban areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. Sappi is also distributing sanitiser to its own employees and their families.
While there remains a shortage on the required PPE for health practitioners in the country, Sappi was able to procure 15,000 surgical masks for community clinics and health care centres in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga – enabling community health practitioners to perform their duties safely. In addition, Sappi has procured 19,000 cloth masks, which were needed for their own employees as well as providing access to their contractors who continue to deliver essential services during this time of national lockdown and who require essential PPE.
Again, seeing the need to respond rapidly to a situation, Sappi ‘s Saiccor Mill in Umkomaas was able to rent spare sewing machines from a local business, installed them at its Skills Centre and deployed six apprentices, to make cloth masks. Following a short guideline from the Internet, they are now producing 28 masks per hour, working towards the target of making a further 3,000 of these cloth masks. Post lockdown, Sappi will be looking into providing training opportunities to local SMMEs in the area for the continued production of cloth masks.

The masks are distributed along with instructions on how they should be used for maximum effectiveness, with the clear message that they should be used in addition to observing the rules of social distancing and personal hygiene regimes. Sappi’s procurement department is also busy sourcing gloves and hand soap which will be added to the list of items to be donated.

Understanding that the pandemic is placing great strain on the livelihoods of communities that are already severely pressurised, Sappi has also entered into a partnership with the Southern Lodestar Foundation and the Spar Group, for the distribution of much needed nutritional porridge.  Sappi is using its knowledge and access to rural community networks to distribute 60,000kgs of A+ instant porridge to vulnerable communities in KwaZulu Natal and Mpumalanga, using the networks provided by community health workers.  The Southern Lodestar Foundation is an organisation which provides innovative nutrition solutions for children and has developed the instant porridge which is being used in school breakfast programmes and is renowned for its nutritional value consisting of protein and other micronutrients.

To ‘Live a Life of Note’ is the Sappi Typek brand message and in a continuation of its drive to encourage people to remain positive and to bring about positive change, Typek challenged South Africans to do just that. Using its social media platform, people who shared their messages of hope and inspiration with others on how they were ‘living a life of note’ during the SA Lockdown can win a R1,000 a day, with Sappi pledging an additional R1,000 a day to the Solidarity Fund. In doing so, people who inspire others through these difficult times win something for themselves, whilst Typek, remaining true to its brand value, will contribute R35,000 to the Fund.

“Sappi has also realised that this situation could in the long run have lingering effects on the resources of many institutions and organisations, and as such we have pledged a donation of Sappi manufactured toilet paper and Typek office paper to the value of R2million to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for their future distribution to deserving recipients”, commented Alex Thiel, CEO of Sappi Southern Africa.  

“In addition to these donations of first-need items and other initiatives, we have also used our considerable networks within local communities to distribute useful educational material regarding the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. We commit to continue contributing to ‘flatten the curve’ while delivering essential services we are committed to heed the call of the President in fighting this disease and its effects on our country”, he said.

Sappi is also actively participating in several coordinated efforts that are being driven by government and private sector bodies; in this regard Sappi has contributed to relief efforts in the two provinces through the Department of Economic Development as well as Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).

Through its contribution of time and expertise, members of Sappi’s communication department are also playing an active role in formalising a targeted communication programme for the water and sanitation economic development stream through the organised business support initiative led by BSA (Business for South Africa).

“Sappi will be able to supplement the funding for some of these initiatives, thanks to the fact that its board of directors and regional leadership teams have volunteered a 10 percent reduction in salaries or fees for the three months ending June 2020, as well forfeiting short-term incentive bonuses for 2020.  We believe that the kind of guidance that we are experiencing from our country’s leader President Ramaphosa at this time, exemplifies the visible leadership which will help companies pull through this crisis together, and as an essential services provider, we will continue to do all we can to keep our country healthy and safe,” said Alex Thiel.


Issued by:

Zelda Schwalbach
Sappi Southern Africa
Mobile +27 (0)83 652 8528

For further information:

Mpho Lethoko
General Manager Communications
Sappi Southern Africa

About Sappi:

Sappi as an Essential Service Provider

As an essential business, Sappi Southern Africa is required to continue its operations during the national lock-down period in accordance with regulations issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act of 2002.

As a business in the forestry, pulp and paper industry which supplies paper, pulp and tissue products which  are used in the manufacture of toilet paper, tissue products, packaging material for food products, cleaning and hygiene products, pharmaceuticals (tablets), nonwovens (wipes, feminine hygiene products), nappies for babies, pallets and crates used in the agricultural sector and for medical and hospital supplies, to name but a few, Sappi plays a crucial role in enabling its supply chain customers to deliver the essential products that our nation needs during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

In the spirit of heeding the call of the President, while still providing these services, Sappi will adhere to all the necessary regulations regarding social distancing and other hygienic interventions in keeping its people safe and will not compromise on any of these measures in conducting its business. 

All Sappi mills have continued their operations with a reduced workforce. Sappi has changed its shift system, reduced the number of people who must travel to work by closing some of its offices and allowing those employees who are able to do so, to work from home.  The shifts changes have been implemented to reduce the number of people on site and to enable employees to observe social distancing protocols.  Measures have been put in place to ensure on-site hygiene, like increased cleaning and sanitisation, as well as providing hand sanitisers on site. Ongoing communication is provided to ensure that employees are aware of, and adhere to, the protocols which have been put in place by government regulations.

As Sappi requires the woodfibre from its trees in order to manufacture the essential products required by consumers, its R& D facilities, nurseries, planting, harvesting, firefighting, management services and transport to the mills continue.