The acute lack of protective equipment that arose at the beginning of the pandemic made it clear how vulnerable a society becomes when it relies entirely on global supply chains. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency is now working to promote the development of the country’s security of supply in a manner that harnesses the innovation power of industry in times of crisis.
The past year has highlighted many fantastic examples in which business and civil society have stepped in to contribute during the crisis. Companies and industries have adjusted their production to meet completely new and urgent needs in society. At the same time, much of the production changes that have taken place were rather unplanned.
– “Sweden’s preparedness to make adjustments is insufficient. We have a strong industrial base and robustness from which we can benefit. But we haven’t planned well enough for a crisis like this,” says Fredrik Stany, Head of Security of Supply at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).
During the pandemic, MSB received situational overviews from various authorities about the status of the supply of critical goods. On this basis, industry and various authorities were convened to engage in a dialogue on how to solve emergency situations. Protective equipment was a major focus, but medicines were another vital concern, and the actors involved worked intensively to solve the situation.
MSB plays a coordinating role in Sweden’s crisis preparedness, but has no mandate to procure protective equipment, for example. In Sweden, the so-called principle of responsibility prevails. This means that all authorities bear responsibility within their sector to deal with a crisis.
– “The positive thing has been that the state and the business community grown closer in the past year. This is important for the next crisis and for when we build up the country’s new total defence,” says Fredrik Stany.
Sweden’s preparedness to make adjustments is insufficient
Private and public collaboration is needed
Those in the business community have testified to a lack of control, where it has been difficult to get clear signals from public actors about what is needed in the crisis. They have also called upon the authorities to clarify what they expect companies to be able to contribute. According to Fredrik Stany, this year has revealed a need for private and public cooperation and a pre-planning process that creates a reasonable level of preparedness that can handle the full threat scale.
– “It’s important to harness the innovation power of industry to find new solutions for achieving a security of supply that works in modern society. We can’t just focus on storing material, because crises and threats can vary widely. There must be a deep dialogue between society and business, as well as a systematic approach that ensures that we have the capacity to do certain things.”
MSB has developed a proposed strategy for security of supply that is now being circulated for comment by industry actors and authorities. The proposal focuses on what capacities within our society the public, together with the business community, need to develop over the next five to ten years. An investigation into civil defence is also in the works, and the final report will be ready shortly.
– “Regardless of whether or not future investigations determine, for example, that we need a central actor within our security of supply, finding innovative solutions for security of supply will demand a closer dialogue between the public and the business community,” says Fredrik Stany.
Tommy Hertzberg, who is responsible for RISE coordination related to security of supply and total defence initiatives, has closely followed companies that have adjusted their production during the pandemic. He believes that there is a lot to consider when it comes to business models for adjustment in times of crisis.
– “It’s gratifying that the business community is so willing to contribute. We need to build up our preparedness for production adjustments in the event of crises, but we also have to create financial incentives for companies to contribute to crisis preparedness,” says Tommy Hertzberg.