Eugene van As 2004


Eugene van As may be described as the doyen of the global paper industry and as one of the most respected business leaders in South Africa and internationally. He is credited with transforming Sappi Limited from a predominantly domestic operation into the world's leading fine paper manufacturer. His passion for business is, however, equally matched by his love for ordinary South Africans and South Africa1s natural environment as he amply demonstrated throughout his career at Sappi (1978-2003).

Over the years, he initiated and guided many of Sappi's highly successful and pioneering programmes in social responsibility and nature conservation. This he did long before it became expedient for large corporations to do so. He committed Sappi particularly to the upliftment of impoverished rural communities and cultural, literacy and learning programmes.

Born in Pretoria and educated at the Jan Celliers Primary School and the King Edward VII High School for Boys, he studied at the University of the Witwatersrand towards degrees in marketing and engineering. Joining Sappi in 1977 as Managing Director of Sappi Craft (Pty) Limited, his rise in the company was meteoric. In I 978 he was appointed as Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Sappi Limited, serving as Executive Chairman from 1991 to 2003.

Eugene van As has demonstrated his engagement with the Eastern Cape region, including the University of Port Elizabeth, in many spheres, but particularly in the field of social responsibility, education and training, through extensive and continued links with various educational

institutions. Sappi's programme for technological careers (Protec) is a national programme that promotes technical literacy and education for secondary school students and UPE’s Algoa Campus has been host to its Port Elizabeth Branch, supporting Maths and Science training for numerous learners. Sappi has been a strong supporter of UPE's Maths outreach programmes through SMATE for many years. The company also supports six libraries in the Port Elizabeth environment as well as the Community Chest, various children's homes and shelters, the beach clean-up drive and Bayworld, in particular its educational facilities. Other entities supported in a practical way include the Pemeach Teacher Development programme, which is aimed at enhancing the skills of teachers.

Remaining steadfastly positive about the country and its future, Eugene van As has ensured that Sappi invests not only in education and training, but also in the upliftment of rural communities and the protection of the South African environment. He was closely involved in the establishment of the highly successful and still running Project Grow in 1983, which has contributed significantly to the economic empowerment and upliftment of impoverished women in the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal.

Discussions are underway with various government ministries to expand the programme to the Eastern Cape to help supply Sappi with timber and alleviate poverty in rural areas. Mr Van As was also involved in the Sappi War on Waste Campaign to create awareness amongst the public of the importance of recycling. This successful campaign has seen the creation of many new entrepreneurs amongst previously disadvantaged individuals and enabled them to obtain their own recycling plants and buying centres. Sappi has also provided the homeless and unemployed with a means to collect paper for selling to the buying centres.

Sappi has increasingly focused on and invested in the protection of South Africa's natural environment. The second largest private landowner in South Africa, Sappi's extensive forestry operations are guided by the fundamental principle of preserving and protecting our indigenous woodlands, watercourses, wetlands and other sensitive biospheres. As a large corporate donor, Sappi has a Jong and fruitful association with the World Wildlife Fund which has resulted in the establishment of the Table Mountain Fund and a RIO million five-year project started by Eugene van As to secure indigenous forest and wetlands in local community ventures and eco-tourism initiatives. Mr Van As also launched Sappi's support for Ken Newman's definitive Bird Book, as well as the Sappi Tree Spotting series, which this year adds the final chapter, namely a Cape Trees book. Sappi's work with the World­wide Life Fund, in particular the Forests and Wetlands Venture, has focused on some areas in the Transkei Wild Coast region for possible development.

Now serving as non-Executive Chairman of Sappi, Mr Van As is still active in supporting Sappi's business's interests and the many social responsibility programmes he so successfully initiated, guided and promoted throughout his 25-year old career with the Group.

The University of Port Elizabeth is proud to honour Eugene van As for his entrepreneurial spirit and outstanding vision that built one of South Africa's multinational companies, and for his demonstrated commitment to the development, upliftment and growth of communities, and finally, a better future for South Africa.