Sustainability in optics: views from manufacturers and employers

OT  spoke to a range of eyewear companies and High Street employers at 100% Optical about their sustainability goals

“I think sustainability is beginning to have a positive impact on the eyewear industry, but I think it’s got a long way to go,” Bird Eyewear’s Ed Bird shared when speaking to OT about sustainability and optics during 100% Optical 2022.

The founder of the B Corp certified eyewear brand believes that sustainability is a continuous journey, “It is not something that you can retrofit and then you become a sustainable company.” he said.

Across the show’s exhibition floor, it was clear that an increasing number of brands have been considering their carbon footprint and manufacturing processes, making a concerted effort to implement change.

David Green, founder of David Green Eyewear, noted that he was “delighted to see so many people who are making an effort, all in different ways.”

“We all have our different angles, but after all what we want to do is create companies like ourselves that will result in making the earth a better place to be in,” he added.

When talking to OT, Tom Wolfenden, managing director of Wolf Eyewear, emphasised: “We have to do something. We can’t just be that industry that doesn’t do anything. Everyone is moving forward, and eyewear can move in this direction.”

For Wolf Eyewear, which over the last few years has been making changes in its headquarters with sustainability in mind, from introducing solar panels to its roofs to collecting rainwater, “being more responsible and being more sustainable has to be part of our story.”

“It’s just the right thing to do,’ stated Luke Wren, head of business at Hakim Group. “It’s the right thing for the future; the future generations and the future of optometry as well,” he added.

For CEO of Millmead Optical Group, James Conway, change is increasingly being driven by the consumer. He shared that many practitioners visiting the company’s stand during 100% Optical spoke of patients in practice asking to see products that were either recycled or environmentally friendly.

Conway emphasised that when it comes to sustainability, everyone has a shared responsibility and a role to play in implementing change. “The responsibility in optics is a shared responsibility and that collaboration between the clinical front end of the sector along with the manufacturing and supply is going to really gather pace because there will be expectations that will eventually come from the final patients and consumers.”

Speaking to OT, co-founder of Specsavers, Doug Perkins, shared insight into the multiple’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2035. “We have a realistic plan to deliver that over time,” he said, confirming that it would take an annual approach to support its five- and 10-year visions.

“This means looking at every community in terms of our supply chain and where we trade, looking at the people side, and the materials that are used in manufacturing. We have to look at the whole dispensing process in practice, the packaging and the waste accordingly,” he explained.

“It’s an absolute massive situation,” he added.