Navigating True Sustainability in the Optical Industry: Beyond Greenwashing

Navigating True Sustainability in the Optical Industry: Beyond Greenwashing

Johanna Skans is a regular contributor to the Danish Optical Magazine OPTIKEREN, where she delves into topics concerning sustainability in the eyewear industry. In this edition, #01, March 2024, she shares 10 tips on how to identify a genuine sustainable business versus one pretending to be.

Enjoy the reading!


When I visit optical stores, one question that I often get is how to tell if a brand is really sustainable or just pretending to be, in other words practicing so called ‘greenwashing’?!

Let's try to put some clarity around that to better understand.

My straight answer is: A sustainable business makes money and success without harming our planet or people. 

But let's explore further.

In an environmental context, sustainability is often defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

This involves environmental protection, economic viability and social well-being. The environmental protection is played out in companies' choices of activities, where a sustainable company is ensuring that the natural environment is preserved and protected, minimizing pollution, waste, and the depletion of natural resources, and promoting biodiversity. 

Sustainable brands consider the entire lifecycle of their products. This includes using recycled, recyclable or biodegradable materials, offering repair services to extend the product's life, and having take-back programs for recycling; are keeping their production local; allocating a portion of their profits to environmental and social causes; and obtaining certifications like ISO 14001, B Corporation, Fairtrade, FSC, and becoming a 1% for the Planet member just to mention a few.

On the flip side, greenwashing is misleading communication where companies give a false impression of their environmental efforts. It's when brands invest more in marketing themselves as 'green' rather than implementing environmental practices. 

Companies deeply committed to sustainability pursue goals that reach far beyond their self-interest, with global impacts. Their decisions are consistently made through the sustainable lens, sustainability is part of their DNA and a fundamental reason for their existence. They are often quite open about their operations and products, so have a look at their websites. 

Ten actions a company that genuinely practices sustainability will do:

  1. Use recycled and/or biodegradable materials, avoid using virgin materials.
  2. Choose materials that can be recycled at the end of the product’s life.
  3. Design timeless products that resist fast fashion trends, encouraging slow consumption.
  4. Manufacture locally to reduce pollution and ensure better control over social and environmental impacts, following strict European regulations.
  5. Minimize waste by eliminating unnecessary packaging.
  6. Promote messages of slow consumption in their communication. 
  7. Donate transparently to social welfare and environmental protection causes.
  8. Be transparent about their operations and products, having nothing to conceal.
  9. Their missions extend beyond their own interests and have a global impact.
  10. Align their goals on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

So, to spot whether a company is walking the talk or talking the walk, look at what they do and to what extent they contribute to good things for the environment and people while making financial sense in the long run.

Keep in mind, this is a continuous journey, and no one is perfect. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and strive to make each day a bit better than the last. Every conscious choice, no matter how small, contributes to a larger positive impact. Together we can make a difference, one pair of frames at a time, ensuring a sustainable future in the optical industry and beyond!


Below is the original article in Danish in the Danish Optical Magasine OPTIKEREN.

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