Europe’s 2015 refugee crisis was dubbed the worst since WWII, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa in hopes of starting a new life in Europe. Drawn to Sweden’s famed generosity and tolerance, Sweden’s countryside became a temporary home to 163,000 asylum seekers, many of whom awaited the decision on their asylum requests at temporary housing shelters in the town of Aneby.
As a result of the mass influx of arrivals, retailers announced that they were running extremely low on beds and mattresses. “There are some shortages of bunk beds, mattresses and duvets” in several German and Swedish stores, an IKEA spokeswoman, Josefin Thorell, told Bloomberg. “If the situation persists we expect that it will be difficult to keep up and maintain sufficient supply.”
When called upon by Aneby’s Fire Chief, Tommy Gustafson, Sealed Air's Aneby team stepped up to Re-imagine™ an innovative solution to the town’s mattress shortage crisis.
“The Fire Chief asked if there were something we could produce that would help," explained Sealed Air's Aneby factory manager, Thomas Piper. “We understood how grave the situation was throughout Europe, and our team wanted to do anything we could do to help. ”
Piper and team did some cost calculations and came up with a purposeful innovation that utilized scrap foam material from the plant to produce foam “sleeping mats” they would then donate to the refugees through local organizations. In fact, the Aneby team committed to donating up to 20,000 sleeping mats, as needed, to temporary housing shelters throughout Sweden.
“The production cost was relatively low, we had the capacity to manufacture the mats without impacting our regular production, and employees from across the functional areas of the company volunteered their weekends to help produce and cut the mattresses,” recalled Piper.
Within 4 weeks, the team had produced and delivered 5,000 mattresses to shelters in the Habo, and Jönköping and Veggeryd municipalities.
The Aneby team’s ingenious “Mattresses for Refugees” project was recognized with Product Care EMEA’s 2015 European Engagement Award for Best Country Engagement Team (CET)/Local Action Planning Team (LAPT) Initiative for the Community.