BRIDGEWATER, N.J.—With corporations’ commitment to sustainability growing broader on a regular basis, the origins of these efforts can get overlooked for more recent events. But at Bausch + Lomb this commitment to corporate social responsibility seems to have had a clear beginning.

“As a global company dedicated to helping people see better to live better, we take our commitment to corporate social responsibility seriously across our entire organization,” Amy Butler, vice president, Global Environment, Health, Safety + Sustainability, told Vision Monday. “Our sustainability journey began in 2009 when our Environment, Health, Safety + Sustainability (EHS+S) team officially started providing our company the leadership and infrastructure necessary to help our sites around the world achieve a more sustainable and regenerative state, while reducing the environmental impact of our products.”

One way B+L is demonstrating this commitment is in place at its contact lens manufacturing facility in Rochester, N.Y., where it has a large solar array with a total of 3,667 solar panels. This solar array is used to generate and supply electricity to the company’s facility, providing 1.12 gigawatt/hours of electricity, which reduces the company’s carbon footprint by 800 tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to Butler.

She noted that the EHS+S principles are embedded in all of B+L’s global operating plans, enabling widespread impact at both the corporate level and across its regional manufacturing and supply chain locations. “Each region is empowered to develop and manage customized EHS+S initiatives designed specifically to improve local operations and preserve, protect and sustain the community, the environment and natural resources so they are available for future generations,” she said.

“These initiatives are based on our company’s comprehensive set of environmental policies, which provide the foundation for our EHS+S global commitments,” according to Butler.

“These policies include: conducting our business in a way that protects the environment and provides a safe and healthy workplace for our employees, giving purchasing preference to environmentally sustainable products and services that are comparable to their standard counterparts in quality, price and performance; designing our products and manufacturing processes to meet both customer and consumer needs for performance, quality and efficacy, as well as to meet and exceed standards for efficiency and minimization throughout the product life cycle; and optimizing the use of packaging materials to reduce waste and continually improve our processes.

“It is because of our continuous work in identifying areas in which we can make further improvements, where we have found opportunities to create unique programs like the ONE by ONE Recycling program, the first and only contact lens recycling program in the U.S., in collaboration with TerraCycle, a world leader in the collection and repurposing of hard-to-recycle post-consumer waste,” she said.

This ONE by ONE program was created as a result of B+L’s evaluation of the full life cycle of its contact lenses, a process that it utilizes across the B+L portfolio of products.

“Many of our contact lenses, including Biotrue ONEday daily disposables, are manufactured in facilities that have adopted zero-waste-to-landfill initiatives and have achieved diversion rates of 94 percent to 99 percent. In conducting research on what happens to contact lenses after they are worn, we learned that the end-to-end trail of contact lens packaging waste generated was enormous—estimating 3.36 billion lenses flushed per year,” she said, noting that this finding is based upon research by Arizona State University.

And while disposable lenses are made of recyclable material, they cannot be recycled through standard recycling practices due to their small size (they get filtered out of the process). “We developed this program in direct response to this issue, and is one we’re proud to offer all contact lens wearers in the U.S.,” Butler said.

She added, “Identifying ways to minimize our impact on the environment and protecting our employees and communities has always been one of our top priorities. However, now more than ever, we recognize the increased importance of corporate social responsibility. As we continue to improve sustainability and raise the bar on our sustainability standards, we are furthering our mission of helping people see better to live better.”

Bausch + Lomb also works to incorporate its strong stance on sustainability and the environment into marketing programs for its customers.

“A few years ago, the company’s inaugural Corporate Social Responsibility report was launched,” Butler said. “This report outlines the company’s corporate social responsibility efforts and provides a report on our progress. This allows us to measure our growth year and after in advancing our initiatives and programs in the years ahead. We proudly share this with our customers, patients and consumers each year.”

B+L also created its ONE by ONE program specifically to provide contact lens wearers and eyecare professionals (ECPs) the ability to responsibly recycle contact lenses and packaging— an option they didn’t have before this program existed. In the U.S., contact lens wearers can bring lenses and packaging materials to any of the participating ECP offices where B+L has provided custom recycling bins.

Both ECPs and patients can partake in the program at no cost, as it is fully funded by Bausch + Lomb. Once the recycling bins are full, the optometry practices mail the used lenses and materials to the recycling partner, TerraCycle, for proper recycling using a free shipping label from Bausch Health.

TerraCycle then recycles the materials into post-consumer products. To date, the program has recycled nearly 30 million contact lenses and blister packs, amounting to 180,000 pounds of waste.

“Through the ONE by ONE program, we work with thousands of optometrists every day to recycle contact lenses and blister packs,” Butler noted. “Allowing patients to drop their used materials off directly at ECPs’ offices makes the recycling process simple and top of mind for eyecare professionals and their patients.”

Looking ahead, Butler said Bausch + Lomb is working daily to find new ways to become a more environmentally sustainable company through its business practices, such as reducing consumption of fuel, energy, water, and natural resources, while minimizing generation of waste.

“Internally, we’ve made significant progress to reduce overall energy usage across our global manufacturing and supply chain sites and boost efficiency,” she said. “We also have plans to expand upon our sustainability programs that are available for doctors and patients later this year.”

She added, “Our ONE by ONE Recycling program also created the opportunity to engage with an entirely new, environmentally conscious audience who has an affinity for sustainable brands through social media. The program has also helped eliminate barriers for consumers who were previously hesitant to wear contact lenses because of the associated waste.”