Warby Parker has taken the eyewear industry by storm, selling sunglasses and optical glasses from $95. On top of that, they have a *one for one model which reaffirms consumers’ decision to buy into the brand. (I admit, I purchased my first pair of optical glasses last year from WP because of the one for one model). Today I decided to do some digging to see how ethical and sustainable their brand is, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts as well.
About their philanthropic culture, written by Forbes:
“With Blumenthal being a former director of the nonprofit VisionSpring, Warby Parker has social good at its heart. VisionSpring and Warby Parker work closely together to provide low-cost eyewear to people in need, as well as train locals to conduct basic eye exams and sell that eyewear to their communities. Every month, Warby Parker tallies the number of eyeglasses it’s sold and makes a donation to its nonprofit partners equivalent to the cost of sourcing the same number of glasses. The company also works with Verité, a nonprofit labor-rights organization, to assure that its Chinese factories support fair and safe working conditions.”
*One for one: this phrase works to their advantage since consumers automatically think of Toms’ buy a pair to donate a pair model. WP’s website clarifies and justifies their reasoning for modifying this model as such: “Donating is often a temporary solution, not a lasting one. It can contribute to a culture of dependency. It is rarely sustainable. Instead of donating, our partners train men and women to sell glasses for ultra-affordable prices, which allows them to earn a living. More important, it forces our partners to offer glasses that people actually want to buy: glasses that fit with local styles, look good, work well, and make the wearer feel incredible.”
I love how they address sustainability in their one for one model, and modified this system to what they believe is sustainable for the livelihood of others. I also love how they work with Verité to assure safe and fair working conditions. In regard to the materials they use, WP uses Japanese titanium and single-sheet cellulose acetate sourced from a family-run Italian factory. Cellulose acetate is made of a polymer which is made from wood-pulp or cotton fibers. There are many studies and debates regarding the biodegradability of cellulose acetate, but another way WP is maintaining the lifespan of their frames is by offering a lens swap service – if your prescription changes, you can simply order new lenses that fit your current WP frames! I think this is a great work around, and ultimately the choice to discard the frames for new ones are up to the customer.
All in all, Warby Parker proves to be an ethical brand who sources from family run businesses, and is sustainable in its own way. What are your thoughts on the brand? Would you consider purchasing WP with this newfound knowledge?