Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are second only to habitat shrinkage and fragmentation in driving biodiversity loss, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Example of plants that fall under the definition of IAS are bugweed, lantana, pompom weed and water hyacinth. Our mills in South Africa are surrounded by extensive landholdings, where some of these species could previously be found.
In 2018, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) trained and mentored youth from communities close to our operations on the management of alien and invasive plant species. This initiative is an example of true community empowerment and weeding out poverty: there are now five legal business entities with five-year service contracts beginning in 2019.
Apart from rendering an important environmental management service, the programme has created and sustained a total of 47 jobs in local communities. Between 2019 and 2021, we spent a total of ZAR12.2 million with these companies, some of which are now expanding their footprint beyond Sappi to offer services to other companies.
The programme aligns with our commitments to SDG1: No Poverty and SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth through the promotion of entrepreneurial skills and generation of income in our surrounding communities. It also aligns with our commitment to SDG15: Life on Land through the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems. We have committed to five-year targets under these priority goals in South Africa.