Covid-19 proves the mother of invention at Sappi Skills Centres

Seeding and growing human potential is at the heart of sustainability at Sappi—beginning with our own people and extending to the communities where we operate around the world.

The Covid-19 pandemic did have some silver linings. For the apprentices at our Skills Centres, it inspired the creation of a new business to supply reusable cloth masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in South Africa.

With a shortage of masks across the country and apprentices unable to continue with their normal training, trainers at our Skills Centres sprung into action with a solution for both problems. They installed sewing machines in the Centres and trained apprentices on their use, enabling them to pivot to making the cloth masks in such high demand. 

The masks were instantly appreciated by Sappi workers. But with the pandemic's stubborn persistence, we needed even more. So, Sappi then offered unemployed local youth the opportunity to learn this mask-making skill as well. The positive impact of the enterprise had become even greater than anyone had hoped.

Seizing the opportunity beyond masks

But this isn't the end of the story. The apprentices had shown a real aptitude for sewing as well as the business acumen to become reliable suppliers. And there was lots more potential for growth. Sappi's needs for personal protective equipment goes far beyond masks to other gear like specialised uniforms for work in mills and tree plantations. 

And so was born ‘Amadansana’ (isiZulu slang for ‘overalls’). This newly established company now supplies PPE specially designed for Sappi workers, with products that meet and even exceed health and safety requirements.

Inspiration, pride and shared value

The budding success of these trainees-turned-entrepreneurs has inspired more young women to explore opportunities with the Skills Centres. And has also clearly demonstrated Sappi's unique ability to support enterprises that can deliver shared value for our business, people and the communities where we operate.