Assessing climate change
In all three regions where Sappi operates, climate change could alter the frequency and intensity of forest disturbances such as insect outbreaks, invasive species, wildfires and storms. These disturbances could reduce forest productivity and change the distribution of tree species. However, given SEU's general risk mitigation strategy of sourcing pulp and woodfibre from a variety of sources and regions, we do not anticipate any material impact to raw material supply from climate change in the short to medium term (five to 10 years). In SNA, our operations do not currently face material risks from climate change. With the exception of fibre from Brazil for Westbrook Mill, we source from northern hardwood and softwood baskets that have not suffered under any drought conditions or from fire.
In SSA, where our operations are being impacted by climate change, we make significant investments in the prevention of fire, pests and diseases, as well as site species matching to tolerate drought, frost and other weather events. We have seen a large steady decline in rainfall in our best growing areas in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) with a significant decline in mean annual increment and production from these areas.
However, as detailed on the Mitigating the impact of climate change in our plantations, we take focused steps to mitigate this risk.
Accountability for climate-related issues
While accountability for climate change is ultimately the responsibility of the SETS committee, on a day-to-day basis it is the responsibility of the Group Head Technology who reports directly to the CEO.
This individual is responsible for overseeing:
- Climate change-related research, such as the group's tree improvement research programmes which focus on improving the sustainable supply of woodfibre
- Research related to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as more efficient water usage—particularly important in South Africa, where climate change is putting pressure on freshwater resources
- Expansion projects where climate-related issues such as energy efficiency, decreased energy usage and reduction in GHGs are always a consideration.