Lerato Tau and her Shatadi Toil team at Sappi Ngodwana.

Lerato Tau and her Shatadi Toil team at Sappi Ngodwana.

By Sappi Southern Africa

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

The desire to help our communities flourish was one of the main reasons Sappi established the dedicated Enterprise and Supplier Development (ESD) unit in 2018. Its task is to help incorporate small and medium enterprises (SMEs) into the mainstream economy.

A Community Management Committee (CMC) with a dedicated multidisciplinary team of ESD, human resources and corporate communications members bolsters community support and supplier development.

The CMC identifies shared value opportunities that help recognise and support local entrepreneurs. Where possible, it promotes sourcing goods and services from local suppliers.


Our goals?

  • To build thriving local economies in the areas where we operate. Many SMEs lack the technical and business experience to thrive in a competitive business environment. Sappi provides capacity-building programmes focused on market access, business skills and the technical skills necessary for business sustainability and growth.
  • To enable SMEs to become sustainable partners in our supply base. We provide procurement opportunities from our mill and forestry operations.

Sappi supports the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has prioritised SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth). We celebrate micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) Day on 27 June by saluting two of the small businesses we assisted.


Lerato Tau - director of Shatadi Toil.

Lerato Tau – director of Shatadi Toil.

Shatadi Toil

Lerato Tau owns Shatadi Toil, a service provider at Sappi Ngodwana mill in Mpumalanga. She is an Environmental Management Honours graduate who emerged from the ESD programme.

Lerato established Shatadi Toil in 2019 after Sappi enlisted the services of an environmental consultant to train and mentor 51 unemployed youths in effectively managing alien invasive species at our mills.

The company entered our fast-tracked development programme focused on safety, productivity and quality business principles. They are maintaining service levels, growing their turnover and providing employment for 21 people from poverty-stricken local communities.

Lerato is geared to achieve her dream of becoming a dynamic and significant 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.

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

The ESD programme continues to provide business support to reinforce management systems and expand business through networking with other corporates.


Mhlekazi Phoswa and his Mhlekazi Forestry team in Richmond, KZN.

Mhlekazi Phoswa and his Mhlekazi Forestry team in Richmond, KZN.

Mhlekazi Forestry

Another example where entrepreneurial drive meets passion is Nhlanhla “Mhlekazi” Phoswa. He began his career as a forestry labour carrier driver in 1985. Seeing the opportunities the forestry value chain offered, he decided to start his own contracting company, Mhlekazi Forestry, in 2013.


Nhlanhla Mhlekazi Phoswa - Owner of Mhlekzi Forestry.

Nhlanhla Mhlekazi Phoswa – Owner of Mhlekzi Forestry.

Today, he is one of the biggest silviculture contractors in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) South district. He has a five-year contract with Sappi and is responsible for silviculture operations in the Richmond area. His business has grown from 50 to 80 employees.

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

He says safety is integral to Mhlekazi Forestry and believes it has played a pivotal role in the company’s 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,” he says.

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