Interview with Stephan Mangold for SDG #14

Stephan Mangold

CEO

Unda GmbH

Author Biography

After studying economic science with sustainability as a main and economics with energy economics and the master thesis about levelized costs of electricity I worked for an organization, but quickly figured out I wanted to create something by myself. On backpacking trips as well as on events and festivals around Berlin the huge amount of waste caused by single-use waste motivated me to create a multifunctional bottle preventing both disposable bottles and cups. The idea was born.

Q1. What was your company’s unique approach in integrating technology to achieve UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)?

The unique approach is to create a product that is multifunctional and therefore prevents more disposable products than others. Also it should be more user friendly (easy to clean) and as sustainable as possible.

 

Q2. Mr. Mangold, you have invented a unique and sustainable multifunctional bottle that generates no waste. Why did you want to make a bottle more ecological? There were already environmentally friendly returnable bottles here, weren’t there?

I often noticed the problem of disposable waste on “backpacker” trips, such as on the idyllic San Blas Islands in Panama, where some are still inhabited by the indigenous Kuna people. I was very impressed by the nature and culture of the people. What really shocked me, however, was the fact that the sea and the beaches were polluted by large amounts of “wealth garbage”, which was obviously not caused by the inhabitants, but was transported to the islands by the currents and the wind. That’s when the idea was born to do something about it. Especially David Attenborough, the British wildlife filmmaker and naturalist, made me more aware of this important issue. And in the process, I also became aware of how much waste we actually produce ourselves and the damage it causes.

I had noticed that at music events, but also at public events, a lot of disposable bottles and cups were being used, causing mountains of waste. Also, the to-go cups on the commute to work, which are used for 15 minutes and then end up as trash in the streets, inspired me to think about a sustainable and multi-functional solution to the problem. In addition, I had noticed that the reusable bottles offered were often not 100% recyclable or, as glass bottles, possessed injury risks. And on my travels, the many drinking bottles, cups and boxes didn’t make traveling any easier, as they unfortunately increased the packing volume unpleasantly. From these experiences, the idea was born to develop a product that is 100% recyclable, has no risk of injury and contains several functions. Unfortunately, such a product did not yet exist.

 

Q3. How did you go about turning your idea into a functioning product?

My main goal was to invent an alternative product that combines several functions, is manufactured in an environmentally friendly way and does not produce any waste. So it had to be something that didn’t exist yet. Something other than a well-known drinking bottle or a normal cup.

A particularly big concern of mine was to develop a product according to eco-design guidelines and with a unique design as an unmistakable trademark. Therefore I decided to work with an experienced designer. Here the work of Mr. Emami inspired me and we decided to accept the challenge together.

 

Q4. What was the actual invention and How is the UNDA different from other drinking bottle suppliers?

The core of the UNDA eco-design is the invention of the 3-in-1 functional system. Behind this is a patented innovative technology that allows the UNDA to be used multifunctionally as a bottle, box and cup.

The UNDA is a sustainable multifunctional bottle. The key unique selling point is the flexible multifunctionality through the 3-in-1 system: bottle + box + cup in one product. No other competitor has this technology. In other words, there are only classic “one-function” drinking bottles on the market. Another unique selling point is the unique wide opening on the box – the classic drinking bottles, on the other hand, mostly have only a narrow drinking opening (a bottle neck). This is made possible by a unique closure technology, which is currently in the patent application stage. The box can be used thereby very flexibly: On the one hand as a large drinking vessel, where drinks can also be provided with ingredients such as fruits and even teas can be brewed. On the other hand, as a transport container for food, such as snacks or muesli, or as a small safe for important objects, such as keys or documents. It also makes the UNDA particularly easy and hygienic to clean by hand or in the dishwasher.

 

Q5. What is the biggest challenge your company has handled while enabling your sustainable tech accessible to different communities?

Creating a new market is a big challenge, because the UNDA is an invention: The world’s first sustainable multifunctional bottle for drinking, eating and storing. The customers has to learn how the UNDA differs from classic drinking bottles. Videos and Influencers are the best way to show the multifunctionality of the bottle.

 

Q6. You are a German company based in Berlin. Why then is the UNDA manufactured in Switzerland?

The UNDA is a particularly durable and safe premium quality eco-product. It is made of high-quality BPA-free polypropylene, is heat-resistant, particularly robust, lightweight and unbreakable. We were therefore looking for a manufacturer who was able to implement our unique technology on the one hand and meet our quality specifications on the other. In addition, the eco-design guidelines should also be adhered to in the manufacturing process. We found exactly the right partner in the company Innique from Grüningen near Zurich. In the production 100% renewable energies are used and there are fair working conditions. The UNDA’s are screwed together by a workshop for disabled people. All this is done locally without long transport distances.

 

Q7. What do you believe will be a global, long-term, impact of your sustainable tech integration?

The innovative 3-in-1 technology made it possible for the first time to produce a sustainable multi-functional bottle that is, on the one hand, a practical mobile catering system – transporting drinking and eating. And on the other hand, it generates no waste due to its 100% recyclability. The user can prevent waste without compromising on their lifestyle. As a result, every UNDA buyer can reduce their environmental footprint.

 

Q8. What’s your vision for the sustainable tech industry and your company’s role in it?

Sustainability-focused innovative technologies should make a meaningful contribution to enhancing people’s quality of life while protecting our planet. Our company will help people and the planet at the same time. Easy on you, easy on the planet.

Female Empowerment in the Digital Age

Dr. Laura Bechthold is a social scientist and innovation professional from Munich. As a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedrichshafen Institute for Family Entrepreneurship at Zeppelin University, she works on questions regarding responsibility and decision paradigms of family entrepreneurs. As the Director of Science Services at Philoneos GmbH, she supports family fi rms in establishing organizational structures for innovation. Laura holds a BA in Business Administration (Zeppelin University), a Master of Business Research (LMU Munich) and an MSc in Sustainability Science and Policy (Maastricht University). Her PhD research focused on unconscious biases in female entrepreneurship. Her fi eld experimental study on female entrepreneurial role models was awarded twice at international conferences. Laura’s passion lies in building bridges between science and practice to foster an open dialogue and co-create solutions for an inclusive, sustainable and prospering society. Therefore, she contributes to EUTECH by writing about entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities for contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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