10 world-shaping Swedish companies
Sweden is the birthplace of a long row of successful companies with global reach. The country’s forward-thinking culture and digitally connected economy have a lot to do with this. Here are ten companies of Swedish origin shaping the world in different ways.
You might not recognise its name but you’ve probably tapped a key card onto a black sensor to open your hotel room door. As the current global leader in door opening solutions around the world, Assa Abloy locks are used in both private homes and businesses across various industries. In 1994, a merger between Swedish company Assa and Finnish company Abloy grew the company into an international force with over 47,500 employees. Their entry solutions range from home security doors and mobile access to biometrics and other identification systems.
While people instantly recognise the name Electrolux on their kitchen appliances, many may not know that this Swedish company remains the world’s second largest home appliances manufacturer. Started in 1919, the company originally sold Lux hoovers, or vacuum cleaners, and later added refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers and a variety of other appliances to its product line. In 2018 Electrolux was named the Industry Leader in the Household Durables category of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World) for the twelfth consecutive year in a row.
A strong competitor in the telecommunications market space, Ericsson is known worldwide for its mobile technology and networks, and remains at the cutting edge due to the company’s approach to innovation, which involves strong partnerships with various universities and research institutions around the world. Started as a family business in the Swedish capital of Stockholm by Lars Magnus and Hilda Ericsson, this Swedish company now has over 90,000 employees worldwide.
Parents of babies and toddlers might be familiar with baby care and nappy, or diaper, brand Libero. Essity is one of the world’s leading health and hygiene companies with brands such as baby brand Libero, feminine care brand Libresse and Cushelle tissue paper, to name a few. Once part of forest company SCA, founded in 1929, Essity broke off in 2017 to become an independent company and one of the largest in its industry. Essity global initiatives range from participating in Menstrual Hygiene Day and World Hand Hygiene Day to photography exhibitions raising awareness on sanitisation.
Bringing Sweden’s quintessential minimalist yet chic style of fashion to the world is Hennes & Mauritz, more known as H&M. Started in 1947 as a women’s clothing store called Hennes in Västerås, founder Erling Persson later bought hunting and fishing equipment store Mauritz Widforss, officially changed its name to Hennes & Mauritz, and added men’s and children’s clothing in 1968. Since then, H&M has expanded to over 4,800 shops around the world selling trendy clothes and accessories at affordable prices, and several sub-brands have been added to the family. H&M ensures that its suppliers are audited to meet its code of conduct in terms of child labour and workplace safety issues among other things.
Home furnishing giant IKEA, founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad, has grown to over 420 stores in more than 50 markets. Known for stylish do-it-yourself (DIY) home décor and furniture, IKEA continues to bring out the handy craftsman in people and is a must for many college students on low budgets. By introducing its basic ‘flat pack’ concept in the 1950s, IKEA has been able to provide affordable Scandinavia-inspired furniture with bestsellers such as ‘Klippan’, ‘Poäng’ and ‘Billy’.
With a name that hints at its Scandinavian roots, Skanska is a global leader when it comes to building construction and project development around the world. Founded in 1887, Skanska has grown to roughly 40,000 employees and has worked on high-profile building projects ranging from roads, bridges and railways to hospitals, offices and airports. Some interesting Skanska projects include the new Karolinska hospital in Stockholm, the redevelopment of Terminal B at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the MetLife Football Stadium in New Jersey, and Sweden’s famous Öresund bridge that connects it to Denmark.
Sharing and streaming copyrighted music online remains a hotly debated issue, but Swedish company Spotify has been able to bridge that gap by providing legal online music streaming services as an alternative to pirated music file-sharing sites. Started in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, Spotify allows users to listen to and share millions of music tracks to their computers and mobile devices such as smartphones. The music service is now available in nearly 80 countries and has around 190 million users.
With millions of customers around the world, Vattenfall is a leading energy company that has been supplying gas, heat and electricity to private homes and businesses for over 100 years. With a strong drive towards more sustainable and renewable energy sources, Vattenfall is the only Swedish company on the list of Top 20 greenest utility companies in the world, ranked by analysis company Energy Intelligence, which reviews carbon dioxide emissions and renewable productions of companies.
As iconic as Swedish meatballs, Volvo remains the largest company in Sweden based on its annual turnover. Known around the world for its station wagons that have made the brand a beloved family cliché, Volvo is also synonymous with roughly 190 other products. Chinese automotive manufacturing company Geely Holding Group bought a large share of AB Volvo – the part of the brand that mainly makes trucks, buses and construction equipment – in 2018 and has owned Volvo Cars since 2010. They’re still headquartered in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, though. First founded in 1927, Volvo Group has over 100,000 employees with production facilities in 18 countries worldwide. Add to that the around 38,000 employees of Volvo Cars.
Editor’s note: This list of companies is based on an editorial selection and does not constitute an official ranking of any kind.
Sources include: forbes.com, technavio.com, robecosam.com (pdf), fastcompany.com, energyintel.com and statista.com.
Last updated: 21 December 2018