Case Studies

Stop and Think Before You Act

Type: Case Studies
Topic: Employee Communication
By Elsabe Coetzee
26 October 2018

Sappi Forests (SF) owns and manages 388,000 hectares of land in two regions (Mpumalanga (MPU) and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)) in South Africa. The plantations are widespread and rural. SF has 860 employees, and its operations are almost 90% outsourced to 76 private contractors, who employ almost 10,000 people (including subcontractors).

Forestry work is demanding with extended hours in harsh outdoor conditions where safety hazards are ever-present. SF contractors’ safety performance forms part of Sappi’s safety statistics. The company holds them to the same standard as SF employees. SF has an unfortunate history of fatalities in the workplace. They implemented various initiatives to improve safety performance with relative success from 2012 to 2014. From 2015 to 2016, the number of fatalities increased from zero to six, and safety deteriorated to an unacceptable level – injuries and fatalities occurred mainly in the contractor operations.

The safety performance was unacceptable, and SF had failed to achieve its safety sustainability goal. The impact on business was loss of reputation (goodwill and trust), financial loss (hiring cost of replacements, material damage, loss in production, investigation costs and investment in preventative activities) which resulted in a strained relationship between Sappi and its contractors.

The “Stop and Think Before You Act” campaign was part of Sappi Forests’ (SF) Risk Tolerance Mitigation strategy, aimed at achieving Sappi’s safety goal: Twice as safe by 2020.

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Elsabe Coetzee


  1. Congratulations, team – so many communication challenges that you overcame. I particularly liked the very simple and compelling key messages.

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