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Corporate Social Responsibility, also known as CSR, has been a part of our business landscape for quite some time now. But like any good social purpose movement, CSR continues to grow, change and at times, even reinvent itself as current events and societal changes take hold.

The term CSR is all about businesses and, in turn, employees, being good “corporate citizens.” Supporting a common social good allows companies to contribute to their community, locally or elsewhere in the world, connect with customers, establish positive employee participation, and ultimately expand awareness of their brand.

2020 started out on a positive note—a new decade, a fresh beginning, the “year of optical”—what many of us hoped would be a time of innovation, ingenuity and progress. And then the pandemic arrived, first in Asia, then Europe and the U.S. And the rules, for just about everything, changed, almost overnight. The world experienced a dramatic and seismic shift, and corporate America was no exception. The rules and definitions of “good corporate citizenship” changed and the business world pivoted.

Prowly, a company that specializes in media analytics and PR workflows, and has issued studies before and after the pandemic, describes CSR this way: “The value of being a good corporate citizen goes beyond the pride and satisfaction of providing simple altruistic support for worthy goals. Strong and consistent CSR policies have become a cornerstone of the identity of many brands with customer bases that strongly identify with causes championed by businesses, from ethical sourcing to contractor working conditions to carbon footprints and a thousand other issues in between.”

Vision Monday has dedicated its December issue to the rise of “social purpose” for several years, from support for vision care access, sustainability and the environment, give-back programs to a range of non-profits, local and global. This year we’d planned to do that again but in light of this momentous year, we adjusted our theme to include new views of CSR as the wider umbrella under which many vision care providers, ECPs, retailers, brands and NGOs are adopting a more visible support of a range of issues as companies.

Here are some of the things we learned about CSR and the meaning of “social purpose” while researching this story.

As 2020 unfolded, NVI’s CEO Reade Fahs summed up the philosophy of many optical companies when he told VM, “Undaunted by the many challenges of the pandemic, National Vision continued ahead with our philanthropic and social mission efforts. In fact, we broadened and expanded them.”

Many other optical companies did the same. As the pandemic took hold in March, it became apparent that PPE was in short supply, and dozens of companies, including ClearVision, Modo, OptiSource, Rochester Optical, Safilo, SN Optical, Studio Optyx, Santinelli and Zeiss, along with large vision plans, optical retailers and health insurers, stepped up to fill the void. As VM associate editor Gwendolyn Plummer wrote, “they did their part to help frontline workers everywhere by producing PPE, donating materials for PPE, or sourcing PPE themselves and making sure it ended up in the hands of those who needed it most.”

As the months flew by, economic hardship became the “kitchen table” talk of the day for many households and optical responded with stepped up efforts to provide eyewear and eyecare for those in need. Despite the pandemic, ECPs donated time and helped the Essilor Vision Foundation in its own efforts to advance its mission of eliminating poor vision, through sight saving programs such as Kids Vision for Life and their Champions for Sight programs. OneSight, Restoring Vision and VisionSpring helped folks in the U.S. and internationally, while Prevent Blindness, the AOA’s Optometric Foundation and Opticians Associations helped on state levels as did optometric students across the country.

Corporate social responsibility underwent a profound change as the needs of people across the country changed. Shifts in societal norms prompted optical companies to refocus some of their efforts to shine a light on and lend support to emerging social issues.

Warby Parker, National Vision and MyEyeDr. partnered with Black Eyecare Perspective to raise awareness of the optometry opportunity among young Black students at HCBUs, the National Optometric Association raised its profile and The Vision Council undertook a Diversity & Inclusion study; Kenmark rolled out the #FindTheLight social campaign to get the conversation going on mental health issues; and Sight for Kids, J&J Vision’s program, provided access to eye health education and services, including free exams and eyeglasses, to approximately 500,000 children. Environmental concerns (Modo’s Eco, Costa, Eastman and others) escalated this year, too.

Please know these are just a few examples of the efforts being made across the optical industry in the name of being good corporate citizens, proof that making a difference matters. Remember to read VM’s A Greater Vision and VM’s Coronavirus Briefing stories on and follow our VMAIL news to learn more. Please keep us at Vision Monday and VMAIL in the loop and we’ll share your practice, brand or company’s message as we move into 2021.

—VM Edit Staff