Exclusive interview with the founder of Skans by eyebizz Magazine

Exclusive interview with the founder of Skans by eyebizz Magazine

From founding Skans Eyewear to pioneering the Skans Academy. In this exclusive interview by eyebizz Magazine, published April 2024, Johanna shares her vision for driving positive change and empowering businesses for a brighter, more sustainable future. Read the English version below. 

"We want to help companies become the most sustainable and successful version of themselves."

Johanna Skans has been in the eyewear industry for over 20 years: as a trained optician and optometrist, she obtained her MBA degree in Australia. In 2014, she joined Specsavers in Copenhagen as a product manager for Northern Europe. To learn more about sustainability, she studied Business Sustainability Management at the University of Cambridge and worked as Head of Engagement at the B Corporation in the Nordics. All of this shaped her vision to use glasses as a catalyst for positive change.

The question is not whether companies will adopt sustainability or not, but when.

eyebizz: You founded Skans "in response to the lack of sustainable responsibility in the optical industry." What exactly bothered you?

JOHANNA SKANS: In my two decades in the optics industry, I've observed a concerning trend among industry players prioritizing profit over environmental responsibility, though I believe they should go hand in hand.

Examples include opticians encouraging excessive consumption with "Buy 2, Get 1 Free" offers, urging customers to unnecessarily own multiple pairs of glasses, and an eyewear wardrobe. Companies discourage repairing frames and prefer complete replacement, supporting cheap mass production of glasses in Asia. There's little consideration for using environmentally friendly materials that are not only recycled but also recyclable.

Eyewear manufacturers introduce several new products every year just for the sake of novelty, without considering that they promote excessive consumption without environmental considerations. Despite my efforts to advocate for change, I experienced neglect, significant resistance, and skepticism, although some progress has been made. These observations made it clear that the industry needs to prioritize sustainability and learn more about it. That's why I founded Skans to offer an environmentally conscious eyewear option for both opticians and end customers. 

Although you focus on sustainability in production, you don't want to label your glasses as sustainable, correct?

Correct, I believe that every production is a burden on the environment today, even if products are made from materials and processes with low carbon emissions, minimal water usage, and little waste. That's why I find it misleading to claim that a product is sustainable. For the same reason, I prefer not to use the term "environmentally friendly" but rather "environmentally conscious" or - as our slogan says - "Eyewear with Impact".

How did you come up with the idea of the Skans Academy?

During my break from the optical industry in the Covid pandemic and during maternity leave, I engaged both academically and professionally with sustainability. It became clear to me that our current lifestyle in the Western world, characterized by high consumption, animal-based diets, and frequent travel, leads to environmental destruction and jeopardizes the future for younger generations. I couldn't continue down this path. Therefore, I decided to use the economy as a tool to promote sustainability awareness in my field, which led to the founding of Skans. Soon, I realized that providing an environmentally conscious product can serve as an instrument for sustainable discussions. However, to fully internalize the mindset of sustainability, I realized that one must first have a solid foundation of knowledge to make sustainable decisions. I completed various training programs of different lengths and depths: Master's in Optometry, MBA, Sustainability Leadership courses, B-Leader training, and so on. My experiences led to the Skans Academy, an educational platform offering tailored sustainability courses for leaders in the optical industry. I firmly believe that companies must transition to higher ethical standards to protect themselves and younger generations. The Skans Academy aims to inspire companies to adopt environmentally conscious practices and be successful without harming the planet or its inhabitants. The era of environmental consciousness is here, and it affects us all. The question is not whether companies will introduce sustainability, but when. Companies can either switch to sustainable practices early and gain a competitive advantage, or they can wait and risk their brand value and market position. We at Skans aim to help companies become their most sustainable and successful version.

Could German opticians also further their education here?

Yes, of course. The course material and lectures are currently offered in English, Swedish, and Danish. However, if there is significant interest in the German language, we will seek a solution for that. Upon completion of the course, a diploma is awarded.

What are your future plans?

I am heavily involved in Skans Eyewear as the founder and CEO; it's my life's mission and passion. Currently, my main focus is on expanding Skans Eyewear throughout Europe and further developing the Skans Academy. In the future, I plan to inspire more people and businesses to become the most sustainable version of themselves by offering them inspiring knowledge and exciting products. I am inspired by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, who uses the power of business to drive positive systemic changes and advocate for sustainable practices on a global scale. This is a goal worth pursuing! ||| QUESTIONS BY PATRICIA PERLITSCHKE, eyebizz.

Read the original interview in eyebizz Magazine here.

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