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NEW YORK—When it comes to today’s purchasing habits, corporate social responsibility (CSR) or social purpose, are “the new black” to many consumers. In order to secure new or returning customers, being on trend, a brand name or the most affordable is no longer enough. The best way for companies to show today’s consumer that they have their finger on the pulse is by showing they care about today’s issues. While giving back to developing countries is not a new concept, factoring in environmental responsibility and human interest or health care causes reinforce empathy, that they care about the world over, not just their bottom line.

Social media has amplified a company’s social responsibility or a brand’s purpose message. Consumers’ spending habits today are gravitating toward companies that do more than just sell their product for profit, but also give back to society or a special cause in some way. Whether it’s through various giving back campaigns for already established companies or through startups who are incorporating social purpose as part of their branding, today’s consumer wants to know that their purchase goes a long way.

Longstanding corporations such as Unilever, for example, are finding ways to grow their businesses while being socially responsible. Through The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) initiative, the company’s social responsibility plan, Unilever aims to grow while separating its environmental footprint and increasing its social impact. With initiatives such as #Unstereotype and the Dove self-esteem program, Unilever is finding different ways to drive positive change.

Retailers are linking their efforts to more visible social purpose campaigns. In September, Walgreens and the United Nations Foundation launched the fifth year of the Get a Shot, Give a Shot campaign which helps to provide more than 20 million polio and measles vaccines to people in developing countries.

For every vaccination administered at Walgreens pharmacies, Healthcare Clinics or Duane Reade pharmacies, Walgreens committed to donating the value of a lifesaving vaccine through the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, through Aug. 31 2018.

National Vision Inc. is a leading optical retailer who entered into a multi-year partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). The partnership aims to provide funding, free vision screenings, access to free comprehensive eye exams, and if needed, eyeglasses for members at Boys & Girls Clubs through NVI’s America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses locations. The partnership, which was announced at NVI’s 20th annual vendor conference in 2015, implemented a successful pilot program followed by full implementation that resulted in youth receiving screenings across 77 Clubs across 26 states.

In an article for, Mathew Sweezey, principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce, stated that he, in conjunction with the Economist Group, conducted a study (due to come out in 2018) and found that “79 percent of consumers prefer to purchase products from a company that operates with a social purpose.” In addition, social purpose is important not just to consumers, but to employees as well. The same study found that, “83 percent of junior staff would prefer to work for a company that operates with a social purpose.”

Social purpose is a significant trend among Millennial buyers. An infographic from the University of Southern California’s Online Master of Science in Applied Psychology stated that companies such as Warby Parker and Toms are marketing to Millennials by harnessing, not only the power of social media, but their need to buy with purpose. The graphic stated that 87 percent of Millennials are willing to purchase products with a social or environmental benefit, while 77 percent use social media to engage with brands on CSR issues compared to the U.S. average of 53 percent.

For this feature, VM has pulled together just some of the social purpose initiatives being undertaken by eyewear brands. In addition to their own campaigns, independent ECPs and retailers are often participating in highlighting these supplier brand stories as well.

141 Eyewear
Giving Back to the Community One for One

For 141 Eyewear, their philanthropic mission is written in the very name of their brand. With each pair of 141 Eyewear purchased, the company gives a new pair of glasses to someone in need—one for one.

One of the biggest benefits of the company’s social purpose initiative is that they donate the same product that they are selling, so the ECP or organization knows they are receiving quality product.

This year, 141 Eyewear has partnered with numerous organizations to help expand their giving outreach—particularly with the Essilor Vision Foundation.

“Through Essilor Vision Foundation, we have been able to identify numerous larger recipients of our frames, which helps us keep up with our giving quota each year,” said Kyle Yamaguchi, co-founder of 141 Eyewear.

“Essilor Vision Foundation has also been instrumental in providing lenses in support of our outreach as well. In addition, we have worked with many of our optical retail partners by providing them with free 141 frames which they can distribute to their own community. We feel like this is the most effective manner of giving because it provides a direct connection between the OD’s practice, the community and our brand,” he said.

As for the upcoming year, 141 Eyewear will continue their social purpose initiatives while partnering with both the Essilor Vision Foundation and other large organizations such as the Kings County Clinic in Seattle, Wash.

But the most important aspect of their mission that they aim to continue is to support their retail partners and “always be there to provide them with free 141 frames when they want to reach out to their community and provide free eyecare to those in need,” Yamaguchi said.

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Bausch + Lomb
Recycling, ONE by ONE

As one of the leading eye health companies, Bausch + Lomb has managed to keep its eye on the sustainability prize with its ONE by ONE Recycling Program. On Nov. 15, which also happened to be America Recycles Day, the company celebrated the one-year anniversary of the program with a milestone—it had recycled a combined total of more than one million used contact lenses, blister packs and top foils in less than one year since the launch.

The program, made possible through a collaboration with TerraCycle, a world leader in the collection and repurposing of hard-to-recycle post-consumer waste, has diverted more than 7,000 pounds of waste from landfills, and has helped create new post-consumer products.

Eyecare professionals who are registered with the ONE by ONE Recycling Program are provided custom recycling bins for collection in their offices. As a result, patients can bring in their contact lens materials from home, and the practice can also collect lenses used within the office. The items are then sent to TerraCycle for proper recycling, using a free shipping label provided by Bausch + Lomb.

“We are proud of the significant impact the Bausch + Lomb ONE by ONE Recycling Program has made in less than a year since its inception,” said John Ferris, vice president and general manager, U.S. Vision Care, Bausch + Lomb. “It is a reflection of our longstanding commitment to champion causes that not only raise awareness and engagement in sustainable eyecare practices, but that also provide vision care for those who are in need.”

In addition to the ONE by ONE Program supporting environmental sustainability, for every pound of waste accepted, a $1 donation is made to Optometry Giving Sight, a global fundraising initiative that specifically targets the prevention of blindness and impaired vision by providing eye exams and glasses to those in need.

To learn more about the Bausch + Lomb ONE by ONE Recycling Program and how to register for the program, visit

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Protecting What’s Out There

One of Costa’s brand pillars is to “Protect What’s Out There,” and the company’s commitment to that cause is an integral part of its culture and a facet that unites the Costa tribe.

“Our commitment to cause is such an important piece of our culture, and is something our employees love about the company they work for and what our customers love about us,” said Terri Ossi Hannah, senior marketing manager, Costa.

One of the main ways the company stays committed to social purpose is by using eco-friendly, bio-based resin in all of their nylon Costa sunglasses and optical frames, therefore reducing their overall carbon footprint.

Another initiative that Costa has integrated into their company’s social purpose goal is their Kick Plastic campaign which was launched in 2015 as a response to the global plastic pollution problem. The Kick Plastic program aims to reduce how much plastic the company uses as well as to encourage others to be aware about their use of plastic.

Additionally, Costa has been a 10-year partner of the OCEARCH Foundation, a group of explorers and scientists dedicated to generating previously unattainable data on the movement, biology and health of sharks.

“Costa is proud to help support OCEARCH’s work, which helps to protect the waters and ecosystems that are so important to our tribe,” said Ossi Hannah.

In the upcoming year, Costa plans on “staying true” to its roots as it continue to focus on the causes that their communities deem important to them both locally and worldwide. This mindset was seen this past year in response to the devastating hurricane season when Costa launched a multi-step hurricane relief plan to give support to those affected.

“Not only did we rally together to raise relief funds, but team members also traveled to provide help on the ground for our Costa Pros and communities in need as well,” added Ossi Hannah.

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Eyes of Faith
Wearing Faith, Sharing the Gift of Sight

Eyes of Faith’s Wear and Share program, allows the customer to “wear [their] faith and share the gift of sight.” A portion of every purchase supports optical missions in the U.S. and abroad and makes it possible to for optical missions to reach thousands of people each year.

“Our purpose is to be a conduit for hope through vision care,” stated Jim Schneider, co-founder/president. “Patients find hope each day by wearing frames with a passage of biblical scripture printed right inside the temple and their purchases support vision-specific mission work. During these missions, a message of hope is offered along with free vision care.”

The objective for Eyes of Faith is to communicate to independents, that they can believe in the company’s business practices. Through weekly email campaigns, Eyes of Faith assures independents of the quality and style of its frames and the difference that offering their frames makes in patients’ lives and the people who receive vision care as a result of those purchases.

The company also strengthens its brand presence through social media. “We often thank practices for sharing our brand with their communities, so we strive to post meaningful social content that they can share and use to connect with their communities too,” Schneider stated. Eyes of Faith plans to further invest in their social strategy to post meaningful content that independents can share with their patients.

Eyes of Faith has also helped to elevate the presence of Sight Ministries International—one of their most active and effective mission organizations—with a new website and marketing efforts. “We firmly believe that people want to support brands and organization that make a difference. While this ‘give-back impact’ connects patients to the cause of our frames, we also receive positive feedback about the human connection that our brand encourages in their offices,” Schneider said.

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The McGee Group
Life Is Good Kids Foundation

The McGee Group’s Life Is Good (LIG) Eyewear line, which debuted earlier this year, has a strong connection to philanthropy. The Life Is Good brand promotes spreading the power of optimism, inspiring others and helping children in need.

“We at The McGee Group believe that it is important to give back and ensure that we do our part to leave the world a better place. Giving back is an important part of our company culture,” the company said.

The Life Is Good Eyewear line aims to give back through the Life Is Good Kids Foundation. From the eyewear line, 10 percent of all net profits go toward funding the Life Is Good Kids Foundation whose mission is to spread the power of optimism to help heal kids.

According to the company, the “give back” and “spreading the power of optimism” message that the LIG brand promotes enables stores to feel a personal connection with the brand, and directly identify with their brand mission.

“There is nothing like going into an account, doing inventory and having to ask if they received their LIG order, only to find out that they did and it has sold out. The answer is typically ‘We love the line and how fun it is to sell,’” said Ed Field, a McGee Group rep.

Through its philanthropic goals of helping and healing children in need, the company’s message shines through—Life is not perfect. Life is not easy. Life is good.

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Modo Eyewear
Buy A Frame—Help A Child See

Modo has been an eyewear industry leader in sustainability and social responsibility and in an effort to continue its commitment to giving back, they introduced their newest program, which provides essential eyecare to children in need—Buy A Frame—Help A Child See. The program works to provide the early detection and intervention necessary for children in need to look clearly toward a brighter future.

The comprehensive project, fully sponsored by Modo and in partnership with Seva Foundation, provides free vision screenings and teacher trainings, optometrist exams, and, when needed, free prescription glasses or free corrective treatments and surgeries.

“Children in areas with high poverty rates often do not have access to eyecare and many causes of blindness are preventable or treatable,” the company stated. “Modo is reaching out to help children who otherwise cannot afford and would not receive eyecare.” Modo has pledged to help 200,000 children in the program’s first stage.

Along with the Seva Foundation, Modo also partners with Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital, to provide free secondary eye exams as well as free surgeries to children. The Hospital, located in India, was founded in 1914 to provide care to all, regardless of their economic situation.

In order to create awareness around Buy A Frame—Help A Child See, Modo has shared videos and posted to social media, sent out newsletters and created counter cards, among other efforts. In the coming year, the company’s plan is to renew overall marketing, create more content and implement it better on social media and in newsletters, in order to spread their message.

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Neubau Eyewear
Mixing an Urban Vibe With a Sustainable Cause

Urbanity and sustainability coupled with authenticity and wit appropriately describes the Austrian brand, neubau eyewear. In an effort to keep creative hubs like the neubau district of Vienna, as well as the global environment, a clean, sustainable area, the company created the SEE & DO GOOD message.

SEE & DO GOOD is focused around conscious consumption and forward-looking production. It starts with the material in neubau’s frames and trickles down to the frame cases, POS materials, cleaning cloths as well as social products that empower nature in an urban setting.

When they launched the initiative, the company introduced the NaturalPX material which is now used to produce all of the brand’s plastic-based frames. NaturalPX is an eco-friendly polymer made from organically sourced and renewable raw materials; 65 percent of the polymer is produced from an oil extracted from the seeds of castor oil plants.

Additionally, the brand developed a partnership with The Honeybee Conservancy in the U.S. and has sponsored two urban beehives in New York—one at Smiling Hogshead Ranch in Long Island, N.Y. and another on the rooftop of The Spitzer School of Architecture in Manhattan. Reinforcing the SEE & DO GOOD message, The Honeybee Conservancy empowers communities with the tools, education and bees needed to sustain local agriculture.

This initiative has “promoted pollination and supported food production, and continues to do so. The hive at the Spitzer School of Architecture also helps to educate students about local crop production,” the company said.

At Vision Expo West 2017, a portion of sales from that show were donated to The Honeybee Conservancy.

“Our accounts are really excited about how lightweight the NaturalPX is and how it feels on their face. They are still getting the premium quality they are used to from neubau, and are also supporting and showing consideration to the environment,” the company said.

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Nouveau Eyewear
ReLeaf-ing the Planet, One Frame at a Time

The Global ReLeaf eyewear collection, designed and produced by Nouveau Eyewear since 2008, is available in 135 Shopko Eyecare Centers. Each time a Shopko patient purchases a Global ReLeaf frame, American Forests plants a tree in areas of environmental need to slow global warming, beautify neighborhoods and restore ecosystems around the world.

“Nouveau Eyewear has always prided itself on offering brands with a specific purpose or patient in mind,” a spokesperson for the company stated. “We are known in the industry for unique brands, and Global ReLeaf has been a great fit for the past decade.”

This year, Nouveau hit a milestone of planting 50,000 trees through sales of Global ReLeaf Eyewear. They shared the news on social media through American Forests and Nouveau Eyewear pages.

“Because of the overwhelming response from Shopko patients, we have planted more than 50,000 trees in areas of critical need,” a spokesperson for Nouveau stated. “Fifteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are absorbed by trees each year, and just two acres of forests can provide enough oxygen for more than 500 people each year.”

Earth Day is always a key event on the calendar for Nouveau when it comes to creating awareness around the Global ReLeaf eyewear collection. The company works with American Forests and Shopko to raise awareness of forest conservation through social media messaging and other events that are planned in advance.

“Shopko has been thrilled with the response from patients. Shopko Eye Centers are often based in areas where hunting, fishing and outdoor activities are an integral part of life. Conservation and restoration of the environment is very important to these communities in order to maintain the lifestyle they love,” the spokesperson said.

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Paws N Claws Eyewear
Supporting Pets Through Specs

Paws N Claws Eyewear is known as a philanthropic, animal-friendly optical company that donates a portion of proceeds to the ASPCA. While the company’s contributions to the ASPCA have exceeded $60,000 since Paws N Claws was created in 2011 with the support of their distributor and licensing partner, Windsor Eyes, the brand also donates money, food, time and eyewear products.

Company founders, Sam and Phyllis Shapiro, also participate in an ongoing Support 4 Paws Pet Food Drive which they created.

“We donate pet food to local animal shelters and food banks that are in dire need,” said Sam Shapiro. “This Pet Food Drive was created to help support local animal shelters and rescues by raising awareness on overcrowded conditions, the need for food and supplies, and pet adoption.”

Lately, the company’s focus has shifted to include adding gifts and accessories for pet-owners of all ages.

“While eyewear is still our cornerstone, we are happy to be expanding our brand and product line to cater to the other shopping needs of our fellow animal-loving friends, while also running social media pet-themed photo contests through December of this year, and giving away branded frisbees for dogs,” said Shapiro.

In 2018, Paws N Claws Eyewear plans on expanding their Boutique line by including Super Lite frame models.

Shapiro added, “We will continue to search for pet related company partnerships offering accessories to add to our product line, supporting the ASPCA, collecting for the Support 4 Paws Pet Food Drive, hosting fun social media contests with giveaways, and working with magazines in the pet industry.

“To date, we have been featured in many magazines to help get our word across including, but not limited to; Woman’s Day, Dogster, Catster, Modern Dog and Fido Friendly.”

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Proof Eyewear
Engaging by Doing Good

For Proof Eyewear, giving back is one of the company’s core beliefs. Their logo, which states, “Everyone has wings to fly, some just need a little help,” is indicative of their mission to make eyewear with a cause.

Every year, Proof executes on this belief with their international Do Good Program. Proof reserves $10 of every purchase in order to support the program. Since its conception in 2010, Proof has visited individuals and communities in need in places like El Salvador, the Philippines, Uganda and most recently, Nepal.

“For these trips, we really focus a major effort on our sweepstakes: providing an all-expense-paid spot on the trip for one lucky individual,” a spokeswoman for the company stated. “This is a huge source of engagement for us well before the trip takes place because we get to inform the audience about the trip and the nature of the trip.”

During the Do Good trips, Proof pairs their resources with local professionals. During the Nepal trip, the company brought over a dentist who worked with local assistants to examine and extract the teeth of villagers living in remote areas of Nepal. The company also partnered with HELP International—a nonprofit organization formed in 1999—which aims to alleviate poverty by running several projects teaching English, painting and constructing desks for classrooms, and art therapy for children rescued from human trafficking, among other programs.

“It’s interesting, because while this is one of the core principles Proof was built on, and by no means a new initiative, every year we go on our Do Good Program trip, we receive an outpouring of support and positive messages. This year, we captured the program while in Nepal and shared the story with our audience on Instagram Stories which was followed closely by our audience,” the spokeswoman stated.

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Giving the Gift of Sight

The core of Revo’s brand is social purpose. The company’s philanthropic initiative, Buy Vision, Give Sight, aims to help make eyecare more accessible. They have also been one of ClearVision Optical’s key partners for almost two years.

“Through a strategic partnership with U2’s Bono and the Brien Holden Vision Institute, and more specifically, the global Our Children’s Vision campaign, Revo aims to end preventable blindness in more than 5 million children and adults by 2020,” the company said.

This program is supported by all Revo frames purchased around the world, and for every pair of Revo sunglasses sold, $10 is donated to Buy Vision, Give Sight.

The company promotes these initiatives on all social media platforms and to highlight both the purpose, progress and achievements of the program.

“Eye health can impact anyone regardless of age, gender or geographical location. The fact that, through this partnership, Revo is able to help underserved populations access life-changing services and treatments is both encouraging and humbling. We are especially proud of the sustainability model that the Brien Holden Vision Institute utilizes as it empowers communities and allows the vision care programs that are established to endure well into the future,” the company said.

In the upcoming year, Revo plans to continue sharing and spreading the message and work of the Brien Holden Vision Institute and more specifically, Our Children’s Vision.

Additionally, the brand will continue to create custom in-store installations supporting the campaign and the progress that these organizations have made in eradicating preventable blindness.

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Solo Eyewear
Eco-Friendly Sunglasses to End Blindness

At Solo Eyewear, their mission isn’t just to be another sunglass company. “We know the world doesn’t need another sunglass company. The world needs companies that care about the people and the planet.”

Solo Eyewear’s goal is to address the issue of blindness worldwide and the lack of eyecare in certain areas of the world. They’ve created ecofriendly sunglasses (each pair is made using repurposed bamboo or recycled plastic) and donate 10 percent of the profits to fund eye exams, eyeglasses and cataract surgeries for people in need. Their efforts have already restored vision for over 13,000 people in 30 countries.

“By restoring a person’s vision, he or she is able to live a fuller, more productive life. This growth in productivity typically yields an increase of more than $300 in annual income. In underdeveloped countries where individuals are living on $1 to $2 a day, a $300 increase in annual income is substantial,” the company said.

Additionally, they carry fair-trade, handwoven artisan sunglass cases. “By partnering with co-operatives in developing regions of India and Guatemala, we are able to help lift these artisans, and their families, out of poverty by paying fair wages and exposing their craft to a global marketplace. Our goal is to support and empower local entrepreneurs and cultivate thriving communities,” the company said.

This year, Solo Eyewear will continue partnering with like-minded brands to “cross pollinate our audiences, share inspirational stories and offer our fans some awesome products and experiences.”

The company has established a partnership with a new weaving co-operative in Kerala, India and are excited to explore and expand upon it. “By partnering with co-operatives in developing regions, we are not only able to boost their local economy, but we are able to discover and share diverse, and unique products with our customers.”

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Using Business to Improve Lives

The mission at Toms is to use business to improve lives. “When Blake [Mycoskie] started Toms in 2006, it was around the time when social media was beginning to thrive,” a spokesperson stated. “Because our One for One model was the first of its kind and the message was easily digestible, people were spreading the message of Toms organically.” Today, Toms continues to use social media as a marketing program to share product categories and tell stories.

For the second year in a row, Toms partnered with Global Citizen to collaborate in spreading the message about the Global Goals which aim to end extreme poverty by 2030. Similar to last year, the company’s retail locations in New York hosted community activations during UN General Assembly Week and in the lead up to the annual Global Citizen Festival.

In addition, this year, Toms created two unisex, limited edition TOMS x Global Citizen sunglasses to help spread the word. They worked with social media influencers to share images of the sunglasses while also highlighting the message of both organizations.

In 2017, Toms celebrated providing sight to over 500,000 people globally. “This would not be possible without our 13 Sight Giving Partners and our consumers,” the spokeswoman stated. “Oftentimes, the first thing our accounts and customers comment on is the high quality of the product at a reasonable price. Then when they understand that their purchase can potentially change someone’s life by restoring their sight, they establish a deeper connection to the brand.”

With every purchase of Toms optical and sunglasses, a comprehensive eye exam is performed by a trained medical professional. Each patient then receives the treatment he or she needs including prescription glasses, sight-saving surgery and medical treatment.

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Recycling for a Happy Earth

When Luke Winter founded the sunglass brand, Woodzee, he also wanted to create, maintain and promote a program that “would be a real asset to this world and to our customers.”

The original model for Woodzee’s social purpose initiative was along the lines of donating or planting a tree for every sale, but Winter wanted a more effective and efficient program.

“With this in mind, I chose to change our social purpose marketing to a program we controlled ourselves from start to finish. The program created was the Recycle Program,” said Winter. “The Recycle Program is designed to reward the customer with a healthy incentive to save 50 percent off their next pair, and we use the parts to offer free repairs to other customers.”

The tag line for this program is Happy You, Happy Me, and Happy Earth.

Woodzee is a small company with less than five employees. Without the big marketing budget, getting the message across has been primarily through using social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter; their name on all platforms is Woodzeeinc. For 2018, they’d like to explore SEO improvements and continue to work with influencers worldwide via social media to expand on their social purpose initiatives and brand.

“I think that it is all companies’ responsibility to devote time/effort to recycle as much as they can. There is only one planet, and we all collectively need to do more. If all companies were recycling in some form, the world would definitely be in a better place,” Winter said.

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