Optical Companies See Benefits of Working to ‘Protect the Planet’


Sustainability is a word that’s talked about often today, but in reality it’s a complex concept that touches upon many aspects of daily living. Perhaps the most-often quoted definition of sustainability comes from the U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

In addition, most agree that sustainable practices are those that support ecological, human, and economic health and vitality. “Sustainability presumes that resources are finite, and should be used conservatively and wisely with a view to long-term priorities and consequences of the ways in which resources are used,” according to the UCLA Sustainability committee. Many companies in the optical industry follow this philosophy.

Bausch + Lomb and collaboration partner TerraCycle provided a donation of custom training modules to the Guide Dog Foundation, a national not-for-profit that trains guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Among the companies at the forefront of this effort is Bausch + Lomb, which for the past few years has been collaborating with TerraCycle on a popular contact lens recycling program. “Before the ONE by ONE Recycling program, we would routinely hear from doctors and patients of the concern they had for the waste that contact lenses and their packaging created, particularly daily disposable lenses,” B+L senior director, professional strategy, Jill Saxon, OD, said during a recent joint event with TerraCycle.

“Coupling the continued demand and growth of daily disposable lenses, and our continuous effort to become a more environmentally sustainable company, we recognized this opportunity and quickly sought a solution.”

Saxon noted that early in the process of working with TerraCycle, B+L learned that contact lenses are part of what is considered a forgotten waste stream—items many people never thought about in terms of recyclability. “We also learned that, surprisingly, even though the material used to manufacture contact lenses, blister packs and top foils are recyclable, the materials don’t end up being recycled if placed in standard municipality recycling bins due to their small size.”

Another company that has incorporated recycling and environmental protection into its DNA is SOLO Eyewear. Each pair of SOLO sunglasses is constructed using repurposed bamboo or recycled plastic, which the company noted reduces the carbon footprint and prevents hundreds of pounds of virgin materials from being produced each year.

SOLO said it repurposes packing materials and defective sunglasses for parts in new production. In addition, SOLO donates 10 percent of profits to the funding of eye exams, eyeglasses and cataract surgeries, which it believes has led to restored vision for 13,000-plus people in need. SOLO has partnerships with Aravind Eye Care System and Restoring Vision, and has worked to improve vision for people in 32 countries to date.

Multi-national vision care companies such as Johnson & Johnson Vision also are active in the area of sustainability across an array of programs. J&J Vision said that, working with its employees and external partners, it has achieved a “strong record of protecting the planet” and is committed to further reducing its environmental impact.

J&J Vision is focusing on three specific areas in this effort: climate, waste reduction and protection of natural resources. “We have significantly reduced our carbon footprint over the past 10 years by prioritizing energy efficiency in our production technology and harnessing renewable energy with wind turbines and solar power in the U.S. and the United Kingdom,” the company said.

“By further reducing secondary packaging for our all of products, we have made significant headway in reducing the impact of shipping, distribution, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.”

CooperVision has taken a leadership role in advocating sustainability practices, and staff members were part of a mission trip to India this year.

Today, 90 percent of J&J’s raw materials are recycled, and it continues to explore better solutions to drive single-use plastic recycling and packaging material optimization. The company also created Earthwards, a program dedicated to designing more sustainable products and brainstorming innovative product improvements.

One of the most intensive optical company efforts around the idea of sustainability are the programs undertaken by CooperVision, which is working diligently to increase its efforts around environmental initiatives in specific key areas—saving water, conserving energy, and reducing, reusing and recycling resources.

CooperVision’s parent company, CooperCompanies, earlier this year announced its alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It subsequently, published a series of short videos relating to these sustainability programs. The company noted that it believes providing access to the videos, even in their short form, will resonate more meaningfully with eyecare professionals, partners and others around the world.

“Our support for the SDGs represents our long-term view of what it means to be a global medical device company in the world today,” CooperCompanies president and chief executive Albert White said at the time. “Through our efforts to contribute to achievement of the SDGs, Cooper is helping to address the needs of the planet and of people around the world.”

CooperVision also was recently recognized for a contact lens rebate donation program that permits consumers to designate a portion of their CL rebates as a donation to Optometry Giving Sight (OGS). In the past eight years, donations to the program has resulted in more than $800,000 donated to OGS.

CooperVision’s Melissa Kiewe, senior director of customer marketing, told Vision Monday she believes the rebate program and partnership with OGS dovetails nicely with CooperVision’s own corporate responsibility efforts. “It’s an actual fit with what CooperVision cares about and really gives the patients an option of ‘paying forward’ the improvement in how they see to help improve how other people see around the world. We’re definitely very proud of [this program].”

Costa’s Kick Plastic initiative includes beach clean-ups and recycling.

Costa is a frame company which has long been committed to environmental causes, particularly water-related ones. In fact, the company calls protecting the watery world “one of Costa’s main brand values.”

In 2019, Costa kicked off their Kick Plastic Lens Recycling program at Vision Expo East, an effort that encourages ECPs to collect, recycle and repurpose plastic lenses, both clear and sun. At Vision Expo West, Costa expanded the program, allowing optical labs to send both their plastic waste and dry plastic finishing, or swarf, to select Piedmont Plastics locations for recycling and repurposing. This is an expansion from two to 13 labs that accept optical discarded plastic in the continental U.S.

To date, Costa told Vision Monday, “the Kick Plastic Lens Recycling Program has facilitated the recycling and repurposing of over 2,200 pounds of discarded plastic lenses, with the number growing every day. This is in addition to over 22 tons (approximately 44,000 pounds) of plastic lenses processed from Costa’s Daytona Beach labs.”

In addition, Costa is dedicated to a Kick Plastic initiative to reduce the amount of single use plastic the company uses. As part of this program, the company has onboarded over 700 ECPs into the Kick Plastic Ambassador program: a commitment from the ECPs to ask their patients to be part of the movement, Kick Plastic Ambassadors receive a special designation on the Costa dealer locator website, as well as Kick Plastic water bottles for their staff and communication materials.

These initiatives are just the tip of the iceberg for Costa. The company’s vice president of marketing, TJ McMeniman, explained, “Sustainability initiatives are not just ‘important’ to Costa—they are an integral part of our DNA. That is why we are not only working to improve our own practices as a company but also believe firmly in using our resources to help others build out their own sustainability practices to protect our waterways.”

Thema Optical partnered with TerraCycle to recycle the excess acetate created in their frame production.

Thema Optical is another company that has partnered with TerraCycle to further their sustainability efforts. Under the company’s new recycling program, Thema is able to recycle the excess acetate created in their production methods. The acetate is then processed into sheets and used to make new acetate products.

Giulia Valmassoi, CEO of Thema Optical’s North American division explained, “Thema is a global company that respects the importance of social responsibility. Vowing to be a sustainable company through our eco-friendly production process and recycling program was an easy decision when we knew the significant impact it would make.”

For Marcolin, sustainability comes into play both on a corporate level and within their brand portfolio. Marcolin Group collaborates with Positive Luxury, which awards their Butterfly Mark, “a symbol of trust earned by brands that have adopted sustainability as a business strategy,” explained CEO Massimo Renon. In February, Positive Luxury will host their first-ever Positive Luxury Awards, with the Innovation of the Year award sponsored by Marcolin Group.

On the brand level, Marcolin USA’s Timberland is particularly dedicated to sustainable initiatives. Timberland in particular, Marcolin USA CEO Davide Rettore said, “aims to be the largest, most sustainable outdoor lifestyle brand on the planet.” The brand’s Earthkeepers collection frames are made with bio-based plastic obtained from the bean seeds of a castor plant, and the accompanying cases are comprised of 70 percent recycled material, Rettore explained.

In addition, Marcolin’s suppliers and factory supply chains are audited routinely to ensure they meet guidelines to reduce environmental hazards for both the employees and the local community.

In addition, Rettore said, Marcolin USA partners with Timberland internally for in-office initiatives including “recycling, plastic bottle elimination in the cafeteria, community service and cleaning, and seminars for the employees to raise awareness, with the final objective to be guided by a higher purpose.”

Modo channels most of their sustainability efforts through Eco.

Much of the sustainability work at Modo is channeled through their brand Eco, which produces eyewear made of 95 percent recycled or biobased materials. In addition, Modo plants a tree with D.C. based nonprofit, Trees for the Future, for every Eco frame sold. To date, Modo said, they’ve planted more than 2 million trees.

Modo describes the Eco One Frame—One Tree program as an answer to the question, “how to do good with our eyewear?” A spokesperson for the brand explained, “Planting one tree for every frame sold seemed to be the best way to connect our social mission to the brand core message. To make this happen, we started our partnership with the NGO Trees for the Future. Since then we planted more than 2 million trees—and that number just keeps growing.”

This year, Modo has also worked to raise the volume on this initiative, after hearing feedback that they haven’t been “loud enough” in the past. Now, Modo offers marketing materials focused on their social purpose initiatives, which help ECPs tell their story.

Modo Global CEO Alessandro Lanaro told Vision Monday, “We have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than how we found it. Together with Trees for the Future, One Frame, One Tree is making a positive impact not only on the environment, but for the people”

Silhouette’s neubau aims to set “high environmental standards” for their eyewear.

Silhouette’s neubau also aims to set “high environmental standards,” a company spokesperson told Vision Monday. The brand’s motto, SEE & DO GOOD, encapsulates these efforts, and so do the company’s sustainable practices, which include “the conscious use of resources,” regional production in Austria, and support of “nonprofit projects revitalizing nature in urban environments.”

neubau eyewear is constructed of naturalPX, an eco-friendly material made from organically sourced and renewable primary products (mostly oil extracted from the seeds of castor oil plants) and neubau aims for sustainability in their packaging, printed and in-store materials as well.

A company spokesperson explained, “We strive to treat our environment with the utmost consideration, knowing that there are already many accomplishments to look back on—but even more that lie ahead. It is our continuous effort to improve and our ambitious goals that define us.”

Sustainable eyewear is also at the core of what Proof Eyewear, an Idaho based company founded in 2011, does. All Proof frames are created using eco-friendly materials, including sustainably sourced wood, biodegradable cotton-based acetate, and recycled aluminum. In addition, $10 of each frame purchase goes directly to the company’s Do Good Program, which gives back to various local and global projects.

The Proof Eyewear team took a trip to Nepal in 2017 as part of their Do Good Program.

March 2020 will mark Proof’s ninth annual Do Good project—right now, Proof customers can go online to vote between Morocco, Samoa, and Cambodia. Once a country is chosen, Proof will partner with HELP International and Art of Visuals to develop a project that will allow them to support and give back to people in need.

A company spokesperson explained, “We dedicate ourselves to creating sustainable change related to economic development, environmental conservation, education, and visual health. Working together with the people of the country we have chosen, the projects are designed to help to co-create change and empower the people… Just like our glasses, our Do Good projects are not one-size-fits-all, our efforts specifically catered to the needs of individuals and communities of each country.”

Flint, Michigan-based Genusee makes their eyewear from recycled single-use plastic water bottles. Genusee is focused on effecting change in three main ways, a company spokesperson told Vision Monday. These are: reducing plastic waste, creating living-wage jobs, and establishing a new circular economy for the future of Flint. As part of that commitment, Genusee designed a buy-back program through which the company buys back used eyewear for a credit toward the customers’ next pair of glasses.

Within the luxury sector, Kering Group, including Kering Eyewear, have also shown a dedication toward building a more sustainable future. This year, Kering’s chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault was one of the 32 original signatories of The Fashion Pact, a movement led by French president Emmanuel Macron to align the fashion industry with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The signatories will report on their progress in September 2020.

In addition, Kering was also part of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (PPBES) first-ever private sector partnership. The partnership includes a “significant non-earmarked contribution to the IPBES Trust Fund by Kering,” Kering reported on its website.

And, at Shanghai Fashion Week, Kering held a “K Generation Talk & Award Ceremony” to recognize sustainable innovation in China. The ceremony was in partnership with Plug and Play, and recognized three Chinese startups, Melephant, Heyuan and FeiLiu Technology “for their disruptive innovations addressing sustainability challenges in the textile value chain,” said Kering on their website.

This is just a small sampling of Kering’s sustainability initiatives—the brand’s sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, Marie-Claire Daveu, heads up the company’s commitment to sustainability, which has three pillars: care, collaborate, and create.

In 2019, Kering was ranked the second most sustainable company in the world across all sectors in the 2019 Corporate Knights Global 100 ranking. The company also runs the Kering Foundation, which aims to combat violence against women.