The foundation of Denmarks wealth is well-run companies with well-qualified employees. Denmark has traditionally been a country of farmers with a large export of agricultural produce. Up until 1960, Denmark had about 200 000 self-employed farmers. In contrast to many other countries, Denmark was mostly made up of semi-big farms. This was the background for an exceptionally strong and well-organized farming class, who built from scratch and owned the food industry. Since 1960, the number of farms has declined by about 80 percent, and there are only about 10 000 fulltime farmers left. The smaller, independent farmers disappeared and many farms were merged.
Today, the farms are very large and very effective. About 6-7 percent of the farmland is organically farmed. Denmark still has a large food industry. Since the 1880s the farmers created numerous smaller, independent dairies and slaughterhouses. They were cooperatives, owned by the farmers themselves. In the cooperatives, every farmer had a vote, no matter how much milk or how many animals he supplied. The great majority of the dairies of slaughterhouses have now been merged into big businesses, namely Arla and Danish Crown. They export internationally to every corner of the world. But they are still cooperatives. Arla stretches far beyond the Danish borders. In 2000, the Danish and Swedish dairies were merged, and the expansion is still continuing. Arla is owned today by 12-13000 farmers from 7 countries: Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg as well as Great Britain. In Denmark and Sweden, almost all milk farmers are a part of Arla. In Germany, Arla is among the three largest. In 2015, Arla was the world’s 7th largest dairy producer.
Danish industry has traditionally been made up of many small- and medium-sized companies. Denmark hasn’t had as many large industrial businesses compared to most other countries of Western Europe. The small- and medium-sized companies have been good at locating niche industries and transitioning quickly. Meanwhile, large businesses have been getting larger. Denmark houses many businesses whom are known worldwide. The most famous one is probably LEGO, a producer of the famous building bricks for children in almost every country.
Denmark is also an important seafaring nation with several large shipping companies. Mærsk is in the top two of the world’s biggest container shipping companies. Oil extraction is another big area of business for Mærsk worldwide, including in the North Sea. Denmark has a large oil production compared to the size of the country and has for many years been the only European country with an oil export that was larger than the oil import. The production of oil has however been declining rapidly since reaching its peak in the middle of the 00’s.
Danish industry spreads to many areas. Denmark has many large pharmaceutical companies, for example one of the giants, Novo Nordisk, famous for its large scaling production of insulin for diabetes patients. Novo Nordisk is the largest company in the North when measured by its market value in 2015.
Denmark also produces more than a third of all the hearing aids in the world. The three largest Danish producers, GN Store Nord(GN Resound), William Demant(Oticon) and Widex makes up three of the six largest hearing aid producing companies in the world. Denmark is one of the leading countries in sustainable energy and energy saving. Denmark is the home of the modern wind turbine industry, where the so-called Gedser-turbine (from 1957) og the Tvind-turbine (built 1975-78) gave inspiration to an entire movement of smaller wind turbine manufacturers from the late 1970’s and onward.
Three of Europe’s five largest wind turbine manufacturers still have their origins in Denmark, og the two biggest in the world, Vestas and Siemens Wind Power, are still located in Denmark. All in all, Denmark is one of the world leaders (and top 3 in the EU) when it comes to “green” energy production, including energy savings, garbage handling and recycling and so forth.
Large international companies include Rockwool (insulation), Grundfos (pumps and so forth), Danfoss (thermostats) and Velux (windows). A number of Danish companies are also well-renounced in the service industry. ISS has about half a million employees worldwide, with services ranging from cleaning and property maintenance to security services and more.
Another Danish industry with recognition all over the world is Danish architecture, as well as a lot of engineering companies, doing consulting work worldwide.
Skilled, well-educated employees are an important source of Danish success. Good management is another one. On top of that, Danish businesses are characterized by trusting employees with a certain degree of responsibility over their own work. It’s expected that the employee not just does what he is told, but also takes the responsibility himself and takes initiative in cooperation with the manager and the business.