In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General spoke often about the central challenge facing countries across the world.

 “The chronic, global shortage of personal protective equipment is one of the most urgent threats to our collective ability to save lives,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom said.

The Swedish Government took action. They reached out to companies across the country for help. Essity answered the call.

“It became obvious to us that there was a lack of facemasks in the fight against coronavirus,” said Charlotte Walldal, Vice President of R&D Personal Care Core at Essity.

Manufacturing facemasks would become a challenge Essity accepted. There was only one problem: the company had never made facemasks before.

Essity’s management turned to Dragorad Vasic, the Plant Manager of a 40-person factory in Gothenburg, a seaport city on Sweden’s west coast. Could Vasic reconfigure the factory’s production line to produce facemasks?

“When I first got this question, I was a bit touched,” he said. “I knew this was the most important thing we could do.”

Vasic also understood the urgency of the request.

“We put together a team that, in three days, configured the machines so we could start producing,” Vasic said. “Everyone was 100% involved and engaged.”

In just one week, Essity redirected its production capability and made 80,000 facemasks for the Swedish health system.

 Magnus Groth, CEO and President of Essity, said the company’s recent success with facemasks made him grateful to the many employees who rose to the challenge.

“Many extraordinary things have been done over the last few months, and under difficult circumstances,” Groth said. “These examples make me proud.”

With a cross functional team, working closely with the Swedish Government, local authorities as well as the Research Institutes of Sweden, Essity aimed to meet demands and needs in health and elderly care, after initially producing simpler visitors’ masks for internal use at the factories.

“The work we are doing and the hygiene and health products that we are delivering have been most critical to society. The situation has forced us to rethink the way we conduct business and how we interact with one another.  Starting to produce face masks within a week in a factory where this had never been done before,” says Magnus Groth.

Essity has its roots in SCA, a forest products company founded in 1929.  Over time, the company began producing paper-based products, eventually expanding into personal hygiene products. Three years ago, the SCA group was divided into two companies and Essity, with its emphasis on health and hygiene products, was born.

Essity’s recent success with facemask production has had a great impact, Sofia Hallberg, Nordic Communications Director says, creating “a lot of pride” among the staff. “This means as much to the employees as it does to society.”

Sample masks from Essity
Masks developed by Essity. Photo: Essity

Over the past three months, the small team in Gothenburg has delivered more than 3 million facemasks to the Swedish health system. To continue support society and health and elderly care, Essity has acquired three new machines for large-scale production of facemasks in Europe and Americas in order to produce 30 million masks per month by August.

“There is no bigger thing you can do than to help other people,” Dragorad Vasic, Essity’s plant manager, said. “It’s huge.”

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