Preparing for the worst -
is Sweden ready? 

Sweden has the resources it needs to face global threats and complex emergencies, but it needs to plan for them efficiently. In a new thesis from Jönköping International Business School, Elvira Kaneberg argues that one way to keep Sweden safe and secure is to develop an all-hazards approach for integrating vital supply chains and to manage society readiness to cope with new and changed threats.

Last week, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) sent out a brochure entitled ‘If Crisis or War comes’ to households nationwide. Many of us living in peaceful Sweden might be forgiven for thinking that this was a bit ‘over the top’ Surely disaster is something that happens far away? But Elvira Kaneberg argues that preparedness planning needs to be taken even further.

“Nowadays, it’s not only about planning for a war scenario, there are new risks threatening Sweden’s sovereignty, for example terror and cyber-attacks, environmental disasters, political instability in other nations. Any number of these threats could occur at any time, and even if these threats are happening far away, they can affect our conditions for safety and security here,” says Elvira Kaneberg.

Elvira Kaneberg (photo: Ulf Hall)

With a master’s degree in logistics, and more than 20 year’s professional experience in business administration, Elvira Kaneberg has an instinct for when organisational processes are not effective. Looking at Swedish preparedness, she saw there were several gaps in the system. She revealed that the organised part of civil society like infrastructures of healthcare, food supply, transport, banking and IT had no common threat picture and were all planning for emergencies in a parallel fashion. Moreover, use of the voluntary and military and commercial sector were not part of their planning.

“If one of these infrastructures breaks down, it will bring down the others, so we need to coordinate the planning and use all actors, which includes using the capabilities of the military within the same plan,” argues Elvira Kaneberg.

Her view is that the supply chain network can provide the structure for the planning, but that it needs developing. A developed country’s supply chain network is based on coordination and cooperation of different commercial actors such as suppliers, manufacturers, distribution centres and customers. But global supply chains are so vast and complex, that it’s hard to coordinate them. The one way to use the supply chain network structure when planning for complex emergencies and new threats, explains Elvira Kaneberg, is to delimit them, that is, to make it smaller and more concentrated.

“About sixty percent of the food we eat in Sweden is imported and most of the raw materials come from outside of Europe. Any disruption in the maritime, air or road system would have a disastrous impact on our supply of food. In a worldwide emergency, foreign suppliers might not even make delivery to Swedish manufacturers, retailers or customers as priority. So how can we ensure that we will get the supplies we need? One way is to efficiently re-orient supply chains networks, the other is to develop a more self-sufficient system in which Swedish society will be prepared to produce its own food”

This is just one scenario, but there are many others. What the research suggests is a new way of thinking in business and the way of organising civil society.

“It can be done,” says Elvira Kaneberg, “but we need the government to produce policies that will ensure that supply chain networks be developed into our preparedness system, and that the use of the military is not just restricted to a war scenario.”

Elvira Kaneberg sucessfully defended her thesis "Emergency preparedness management and civil defence in Sweden: an all-hazards approach for developed countries" at Jönköping International Business School on 8 June.