The world is suffering from geo-political instability. The war in Ukraine carried over to 2023 and will be a part of 2024 too. In early October, we experienced another significant conflict in the Middle East, with the war in and around the Gaza Strip. Both occasions represent huge costs in terms of loss of human lives and endless suffering.
On top of this, we experienced a weakening economy in large parts of the world, and in some countries, it even qualified as a recession. On the climate change front, there remains so much more to do, and the evidence of the urgency is glaring, and challenging socio-political conditions persist across the globe.
On the business front, these circumstances influence us all in terms of overall demand for our products and the cost of raw materials, transportation, etc. Customer demand has decreased as past cautious purchases amid raw material uncertainties resulted in high inventory levels that are now adjusting downwards to normal levels. The consequence is that our customer demand is even lower than the actual consumption by end-users.
Against this background, I am pleased with how AXEL has adapted to the given circumstances. The reduced demand has provided valuable opportunities to minimise backlog from the previous hectic period and to re-direct resources to look after our customers and equipment.
At the beginning of the year, we held live Townhall Meetings at our six facilities, sharing and celebrating our people and accomplishments. In February, AXEL Christiernsson A.B. was awarded the EcoVadis Sustainability Silver Medal, placing us in the 91st percentile of participating organisations. Mid-year, we bid farewell to Lenny Berglund after 24 years of service, many of them as head of our Swedish operation, and we welcomed his successor, Patrik Thalén. In June, we held our International Finance meeting in Tulsa, and more recently, in September and October, we gathered for our International Sales and Technical meetings in London and Gothenburg and celebrated our 135th Anniversary. In November, we inaugurated the extended production unit for food-grade lubes and greases at AXEL France, together with a much-needed new warehouse with shipping docks for finished goods. Indeed, some milestones from 2023 to recognise!
I extend a sincere thank you to all our customers and business partners around the globe! You are the reason for our existence, and we are grateful for your continued trust.
I also thank the entire AXEL team for your services! Equally essential for the company and the sole reason we can engineer, manufacture, and supply the high-quality greases that our customers expect to receive.
Finally, let 2024 turn out more peaceful than this year, and, at an individual level, I wish you all a fulfilling year with professional success and a lovely combination of good health and happiness!