Investing in sustainable eyewear

Investing in sustainable eyewear; while being beneficial for the environment and society, and having significant real-world impacts, can provide potential benefits for your practice along with potential challenges worth considering.

Sustainability is a holistic approach that balances environmental, social, and economic considerations to ensure long-term health and well-being for both people and the planet. It is about taking proactive steps to prevent environmental degradation and helps to ensure future generations inherit a healthy environment. Sustainability’s long-term goals include mitigating climate change, reducing pollution, job creation in “green” industries, increased innovation, and promoting a higher quality of life that ensures access to resources for all.

When taking on a line of sustainable or eco-friendly eyewear, consider the Market. Currently the sustainable eyewear market is relatively niche compared to the broader eyewear market. Awareness and demand are growing but are still not mainstream. Some consumers may not prioritize sustainability when selecting eyewear and others may be skeptical about the benefits. Misconceptions may deter potential buyers. Economic downturns may cause customers to prioritize cost, opting for cheaper, non-sustainable eyewear brands. However, there is a growing demand for eco-friendly products, not just eyewear. Consumer awareness is being buttressed by social media and corporate advertising and, more retailers are offering sustainable products and competition in the niche market is increasing. Opticals need to get on “their boards” now and overcome these challenges through education, brand positioning, differentiation from your competitors, and providing an authentic narrative that inspires your customer’s to care about making responsible purchasing decisions and attracts new environmentally conscious customers.

Education is imperative, empowering, and requires time and staff training. Getting customers to care about purchasing sustainable eyewear may require some work. This should include educating customers and staff about the benefits and value of sustainable eyewear and creating narratives or personal stories that elicit emotional connections that are potentially shared with family and friends and encourage consumers to prioritize sustainable eyewear. The benefits and value can be as simple as a bullet point list including but not limited to: reduced carbon footprint associated with manufacturing, use of recycled or biodegradable materials minimize waste, prevent habitat destruction, mitigate pollution, promotion of social responsibility in the eyewear industry, and free from harmful chemicals and toxins. Opticals should make use of their sales representatives knowledge and ask suppliers for point-of-purchase materials and educational guides to train staff and empower them and their customers to make informed choices about sustainability.

Narratives should make the connection of sustainability to the consumer and inspire action. Narratives can provide a background story, differentiate your products from competitors, highlight tangible outcomes such as “five recycled water bottles create one pair of eyeglasses”, and help build trust and loyalty to a brand. Providing an example of yours or a customer’s personal experience in reference to sustainable eyewear, like the well-being someone feels by supporting sustainable practices or how the brand aligns with your practice is a great add to a narrative.

Incorporating a line of sustainable eyewear into your practice brings many benefits including customer satisfaction, the potential to attract new customers, and differentiation from your competitors. To be successful, you will need to alleviate the challenges and drawbacks that go along with being an early adopter of a niche product that not all populations are familiar with. Strategies need to be created and effectively communicated to staff and consumers. The message needs to be constantly and consistently reinforced until sustainable eyewear reaches the broader market. When it does, you’ll be ready to meet the demand.

Eyewear photos provided by MITA Eyewear

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