SODRA Cell AB



I've always taken great pride in the scheduling, planning and execution of my treks and for the most part they've been relatively free of big mistakes. However, I sure messed up with my visit to SODRA, a forest cooperative with 32,000 forest owners in southern Sweden. What's the problem? Lots. It's not until riding into downtown Vaxjo, a nice town of 50,000 and seeing the large lake that I realize I've been here four years ago. So? If you look at a map of Sweden you'll see it was a BIG boring detour getting here from my previous stop of Perstorp. From Perstorp I could have returned to the Swedish coast and followed the scenic coastline 140 miles north to Gothenburg. What's the big deal? Trees, millions and millions of 'em. The two-lane up and down road I followed was flanked by forests of trees on either side the whole way. I mean the heavy density of trees reaches right up to the road allowing for little change of scenery. Then, to make matters worse I revisit SODRA only to end up receiving a lousy reception. This in sharp contrast to the previous visit where the CEO's secretary greeted me warmly and served as my tour guide. Stupid me, if I had only gone to my website (www.corporatetrivia.com) and read the stories from the first trek to Sweden I would caught the mistake.

Built in 1968, the six-story headquarters building is situated on the edge of a large lake. The surrounding area is heavily wooded and there's a nice paved biking/jogging path that cuts through SODRA's property and continues around the lake's perimeter.

I check in with the receptionist (who speaks very little English) and in a few minutes the secretary to CEO Helge Eklund steps into the lobby. She says they never received my letter of introduction. She also isn't too keen on finding someone to meet with me. Boy, bring back Birgitta Carlzon, secretary to the previous CEO. Anyway, I end up meeting with Therese Thelin from public relations and her lack of interest is evident.

Being the world's largest manufacturer of market pulp (Georgia-Pacific is a close second), it isn't surprising finding lots of items in the lobby having to do with trees. Of course, I check all 10 plants and small trees in the lobby to make sure they're real. They are. It would be kind of embarrassing for a company whose livelihood depends on forests to have fake plants and trees in the lobby right? Well, over the years I've caught several. The centerpoint of the large lobby is definitely the four large ceramic tile murals lining a wall. Each is 10 feet by 8 feet. One is of a lumberjack, two are pinecones and the fourth depicts a man, horse and a logging wagon. Also in the lobby stands a bronze of Gosta Edstrom, who founded the company in 1938. A impressive spiral staircase weaves its way to the various floors from the middle of the lobby and mounted on the wall in one corner of the room there's a huge set of moose antlers.

There are over 1,400 employees company-wide and 200 of them work here. Parking isn't a problem and Thelin says the food in the cafeteria is good. Smoking is allowed, the company does have a website and my request to see the CEO's office and boardroom is declined. Not seeing the CEO's office and boardroom doesn't bother me since I saw them both during my last visit. It's usually worthwhile seeing the boardroom table of a lumber company because sometimes it's made out of exotic wood. SODRA's long octagon-shaped boardroom table with green inlay seats 30. In the hole in the center of the table stands a three-foot in diameter cancer off a tree. I never knew trees could develop cancer but, this brown growth is bigger than three human heads.

What's the most unexpected item seen here? No, the moose antlers aren't that unexpected and neither is the tennis court. It's the piano that sits outside the entrance to the cafeteria.