From Swedish bread boxes to global packaging solutions

30 Apr 2019, Erik Helldén

From Swedish bread boxes to global packaging solutions

SCC Member Nefab Packaging is a global industrial packaging manufacturer specialising in complete packaging solutions with roots in the dense forests of Sweden. The LINK met with Christopher Fuchs, Managing Director at Nefab’s UK branch, to talk about the company’s journey, what it is like to work at a Swedish company and how the Swedish mentality continues to permeate Nefab’s corporate culture.

Nefab’s journey began when carpenter Sigurd Nordgren opened a shop in Hälsingland, Ovanåker, in 1923. At the time, the business was small and focused mostly on bread boxes made out of plywood and band-steel. But when his sons took over in 1949, they started to receive larger orders and decided to establish the company Nordgrens Emballage FABrik (NEFAB) in Runemo, a remote and densely forested area in the north of Sweden. During the decades to come, they grew and started looking at markets outside of Sweden. The expansion began with the European market and spread to the Americas and Asia. Today, they are a global service company with around 2,600 employees and production sites, warehouses, laboratories and offices in over 30 countries.

Being Swedish positive in the UK market

The UK branch was established in 2001. Christopher Fuchs, Managing Director of the UK branch, believes that even though the company has gone through substantial changes throughout the years, they have still held on to the same spirit. “Every company has a specific culture,” he says, “but there are certain values that are specifically Swedish that have always affected Nefab’s corporate culture. The hierarchy remains flat, for example, and the discussions are quite direct and the decision paths short.”

Photo: Nefab UK.

In the UK, he says, it is especially positive to be associated with ‘Brand Sweden’. When discussing certain aspects of everyday life and societal functions overall, Sweden is often taken as a positive example. This gives a company like Nefab a benefit in the UK market. “The only time that it isn’t always positive to be associated with Sweden in the UK,” Christopher says, “is when Sweden is playing England in football”.

Sustainability part of the business strategy

In 2008, Nefab joined the UN Global Compact initiative, a global strategic business initiative on corporate responsibility. As part of the initiative, they have designed tools to conduct a ‘Life Cycle Analysis’ of the environmental impact of their packaging solutions from the raw materials phase, through the use phase to the end of the product’s life. They calculate a number of parameters, such as global warming potential (GWP) or water consumption, by which they can measure impact at each stage in the cycle. By this technique, they enable customers to understand the impact of the packaging solutions. The sustainability team is also working to ensure that they are at the forefront of new environmentally friendly materials.

“These initiatives are very important to us,” Christopher says, “and I think that a lot of people that work for Nefab, regardless of nationality, are working here because they stand by these values.” When asked if Nefab’s Swedish roots could have affected these initiatives, he answers: “Absolutely. I think it’s almost baked into the Swedish mentality”. In that sense, he says, Nefab stays true to the values established by the carpenter’s sons in the forests of Runemo.

This article was originally published in the April 2019 issue of our Member Magazine, the LINK. Read the full issue here.

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