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soulproducts began by offering a refillable glass bottle. They built an innovative catalog of sustainable products with the primary product line called soulbottle. This plastic-free, reusable bottle is climate neutral produced, thereby contributing to the Sustainability Development Goals 12 and 13.
The unique business model and structure of soulproducts GmbH emphasizes flat hierarchies and equal opportunity. The business model and the soulbottle product make soulproducts a genuinely innovative company.
The two founders Paul Kupfer and Georg Tarne wanted a holistic, sustainable company with an innovative organizational structure and new ways of communication. The company was built upon the idea of a positive contribution toward the environment and society. They introduced Holacracy and Compassionate Communication into the company to create a unique work environment envied by visitors, “They are always caring to everyone.” These principles create a productive and healthy togetherness without vertical hierarchies; everyone is part of the everyday decision-making process and can share opinions without fear of retaliation.
To ensure the company stays true to today’s vision, even when the founders leave, they decided to become a purpose-driven company owned by the employees. In their case, every employee is entitled to vote on strategic decisions.
The main product of soulproducts, the soulbottles, was not an entirely new invention. But the combination of a uniquely designed glass bottle and clip closure, which was primarily used on beer bottles or conserved food, was the ideal product to give people an easy-to-use opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint.
All soulbottles are produced without any plastics. The glass bottle consists of 60-80% recycled glass. The cap is made of ceramic, and the sealing ring is made of natural rubber. All parts are produced fair and climate neutral. The designs come from design competitions or are designed by different artists worldwide. Almost all production occurs in Germany; only the natural rubber comes from a FAIR RUBBER-certified supplier from Sri Lanka.
“We watched the movie Plastic Planet in the cinema and came out very shocked.” This film showed the drastic effects of plastic products on the environment. Disposable plastic bottles contribute significantly to plastic pollution. From that moment on, they both decided to avoid as much plastic in their daily life as possible. This included not drinking out of plastic bottles anymore, said Paul Kupfer, a soulproducts founder.
Despite earning some strange stares from onlookers in the subway, they started reusing old liquor bottles for their daily business. They did extensive research on the environmental impact of bottled water and found that plastic packaging and transportation produce about 600 times more CO2, than drinking tap water with a reusable bottle. The two asked themselves if it is possible to encourage the general public to adopt sustainability practices through the use of well-designed water bottles. In collaboration with students from the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the first soulbottle designs were drawn. The designs were printed on the bottles in a workshop of the university and then sold to friends.
The founding idea of soulproducts was “We want to make a positive contribution to a sustainable World.” The two decided that every bottle sold should help people worldwide improve their everyday life by gaining access to clean drinking water and safe hygiene.
From the first industrial-manufactured batch of soulbottles on, they have produced CO2-neutral products ever since.
The company's vision - " To be socially and ecologically sustainable without unnecessarily burdening the planet and have access to clean drinking water.", embodies their contribution to the UN SDGs.
The main SDG goals they want to achieve are -
“6. Clean Water and Sanitation”, “12. Responsible Consumption and Production”, and “13. Climate Action”.
And even in the first ten years since the founding of soulproducts, the impact on these and other goals can be seen.
"We donate €1 per sold soulbottle, and in October 2022, we reached the 1.5 million mark resulting in €1.5 million donated to a big part to Nepal and the other part to Zambia", which has an impact on “Clean Water and Sanitation.” This leads to approximately 100,000 people having access to clean water and sanitation due to soulproducts.
The company’s other two prioritized SDGs are influenced by soulbottle as a product. Paul Kupfer said: "How many people no longer use plastic bottles? The last extrapolation was about 167 Million saved plastic bottles." This leads to 27,000 tons of CO2 that were avoided and 6,000 tons of plastic that will not end up in the environment. This proves the impact of the climate action initiatives implemented by the company.
The employees of soulproducts always try to go a step further with their impact. They signed the Net Zero 2030 initiative and have already reached their obligations in 2020.
These actions promote transparency related to climate change to the general public and have set an example for other companies to follow. Today, more companies are trying to contribute more to the environment and society. With projects that help entrepreneurs implement their ideas, soulbottles also contributes towards other Sustainability Development goals, including Goal 9, “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” and Goal 17, “Partnership for the Goals.”
The main difference between a traditional industrial manufacturing business and soulproducts is the focus on maximizing environmental and social impact instead of only profits. This is the reason why soulproducts is a purpose-driven company.
The main objective of the company is to be holistically sustainable. To achieve this goal, soulproducts became one of the first German companies to be granted the B Corp Certificate for its performance. It also received one of the highest scores in the world based on the Economy for the Common Good (ECG) model.
This proves that an ethical, sustainable, and purpose-driven company can operate in a competitive market without necessarily focusing primarily on profits.
soulproducts employs about 70 employees. These employees function through the principles of Holacracy and non-violent communication to tackle new challenges and ideas together in a healthy work environment.
By now, soulproducts has created a substantial brand value to sell more than 1.5 million soulbottles with numbers growing yearly. Aside from the rapid growth in revenue, the most significant asset of soulproducts is its work culture which is primarily employee focused. With the implementation of Holacracy, it is possible for every employee to contribute their best to the business without the fear of rejection or retaliation from upper management. So, it is possible to get the best ideas and inputs from every employee, and everyone can learn from the successes and mistakes of others.
soulproducts emphasizes the control and monitoring of sewage, exhaust, and noise through external organizations. soulproducts goes so far that even the financial partners and banks of soulproducts are chosen based on their social and ecological principles.
soulproducts enables people to reflect on their daily water consumption and the resulting consequences of plastic waste and CO2 emissions while providing a sustainable alternative. This alternative also supports communities around the world to improve their living conditions, as described by Paul Kupfer:
“Clean water does not only mean someone has clean water. Instead, if someone doesn’t have clean water, in most cases, the water is polluted with bacteria resulting in diarrhea and diseases. Above all, it makes people ill, meaning they cannot work, go to school, or earn money. A lot of economic wealth and well-being depends on it [clean water]. But for these 100,000 people, it made a huge difference in their lives.”
The environmental benefit is the reduced usage of plastic bottles, resulting in less plastic waste worldwide and fewer CO2 emissions; these benefits will only multiply in the future.
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Paul Kupfer, Founder
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soulproducts is an organization that wants to maximize its impact on the planet through sustainability and its innovative work culture while being profitable. It supports numerous projects and organizations that help people access clean water and sanitation. The company is particularly proud of its implementation of the principles of Holacracy in its day-to-day activities.