Industry profile

Sustainable innovation in eyewear: meeting consumer’s desires to make a difference

Emily Andrews, product director and chief sustainability officer for Eyespace, on the drive to use sustainable materials, and the role of consumers in shaping change


Eyespace has been at the forefront of environmentally-conscious business practices for several years. Our journey into sustainability moved up several gears almost four years ago, prompted by an uneasy and increasing awareness of the extreme volumes of plastic waste polluting our oceans and waterways.

This led to a refocus within the business, and the board of directors committed to tackling Eyespace’s environmental impacts head-on. Backed by the introduction of a sustainability charter, we have bold and measurable sustainable, ethical and environmental (SEE) principles and targets that are focused on reducing our impact on the climate and our consumption of natural resources. For example, Eyespace is one of the first eyewear suppliers to switch to 100% biodegradable frame bags across all collections and we are rapidly widening the use of biodegradable demo lenses. We are integrating as many sustainable materials into our collections as possible.

As an industry we are adopting new, sustainable behaviours at an extraordinarily fast pace. One of Eyespace’s greatest industry-wide challenges – which, if we are doing our job thoroughly, should never go away – lies in the investments needed into the research and development of new sustainable materials.

We are passionate about developing market-leading product that sits at the forefront of innovation, but we also have responsibilities to ensure it is a suitable choice of eyewear. We intensively investigate every aspect, from material stability and durability through to colour properties, right through to whether the shipping process affects the finished piece, ensuring that both patient and practitioner have a product that they trust to meet their needs as well as support their eco-objectives.

We believe that companies need to be the gatekeepers in terms of raw material selections


It is no longer enough for companies to pay lip-service to insubstantial sustainability commitments. Our products hold certifications for all sustainable materials, including evidence of biodegradability (BS EN ISO 14855-1:2012 and ISO 15985:2014) and declarations for any specific claims. We believe that companies need to be the gatekeepers in terms of raw material selections, so auditing, certification and exhaustive research and development lies at the heart of our decision-making processes. This is how we ensure that every eco-friendly product we put to market is genuinely sustainable and safeguarded by accountability.

We are working to ensure that Eyespace is internally operating at the highest sustainability standards. We have done this by gathering ISO accreditations, including the environmental standard ISO 14001, and are currently working towards B-Corp certification – something we anticipate being a 12-month process).

Eyespace launched a set of frames for its children’s brand, Rock Star, featuring styles made from recycled plastic waste. Each frame is named after an endangered sea animal, including ‘Dugong,’ above.
There is no industry that isn’t making moves to a more sustainable future, and this is largely being driven by shifts in consumer buying decisions. We encourage every eyewear supplier to sign up to the Optical Suppliers Association’s Green Charter, which launches later this year, and all practitioners to tackle their suppliers to change the status quo, putting pressure on them to remove single use plastics and to switch to 100% recycled or biodegradable alternatives, including demo lenses.

The urgency to respond to environmental threat is greater than ever. There is an increasing awareness Gen Z and Alpha, who are educating their family and friends on the changes that need to be made. We are shaping our product launch innovations to meet this customer group’s desire for eyewear that makes a difference, so the latest addition to Eyespace’s sustainable portfolio sees the introduction of comprehensive capsule offerings utilising reclaimed ocean plastics within our Rock Star and Basebox collections.

Eyespace’s designer partners, Aspinal and Range Rover/Land Rover, are also aware that sustainable materials are the new backbone for premium retail. We work harmoniously with both of these luxury brands towards a mutual goal that sees environmental responsibility as an absolute priority.

If every individual ups their investment in a greener future, the result will be win-win for all of us


Research indicates that over a third of consumers are willing to pay more for products manufactured in sustainable materials. The eyewear industry has a responsibility to offer consumers sustainable frame options that facilitate eco-friendly choices. As an industry, we can overcome the challenge of reducing material cost prices by producing more frames in sustainable materials and where a sustainable option is available, it should be the only choice. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more normalised sustainable eyewear becomes, the more accessible the cost becomes, and so more and more consumers will be in a position to access them.

This year we focused our energy on taking customers on the sustainable journey with us, imparting our learnings to our global customer-base through a series of live webinars. What has become evident throughout the course of each Green Summit, is that practitioners are passionate about educating themselves on why sustainable decisions are so important, and how they can apply ‘green thinking’ to their own businesses. As we have emerged from COVID-19, there has been a genuine and elevated shift in perspective back towards focusing on sustainability, and the number of attendees we are seeing is a testament to the enthusiasm within the profession.

We are committed to becoming a carbon-neutral organisation by 2030, increasingly undertaking planting initiatives to help global carbon-absorption efforts, as well as offsetting general business activities. Domestically, we are making purchase decisions that support local suppliers and are working with electric-powered courier services, while our warehouse team uses eco-friendly packaging materials, and recycle and re-purpose as much waste as possible. Other initiatives crucial to minimising our footprint include transitioning case designs to incorporate recycled materials, and switching to folding designs, which reduce weight, cargo and warehousing space (thus lowering their carbon footprint). We are progressing rapidly on ambitious targets to transition a large proportion of the Eyespace portfolio to sustainable product, and as part of this, every product range now includes sustainable frame choices.

It takes dedication, commitment, and follow-through to make sustainability succeed in business. But if every individual ups their investment in a greener future, the result will be win-win for all of us.