Founded in Millmead, Guilford UK, Millmead Optical Group combines nearly 75 years of experience in eyewear, lenses and accessories. In the past few years, the group has had sustainability set in their sights as they commit to reducing the environmental impact of their optical products, production and distribution.
The overall mission is clear – to continue to find better ways of working to improve the effects the business and industry has on the environment. CEO James Conway is passionate about sustainability and believes that the group’s efforts have no deadline or destination, instead the matter is treated as a journey with constant opportunities for improvement.
The journey started with just a few small changes to the way the business is run day to day. LED lighting was implemented throughout the whole Liverpool facility, ensuring less energy wastage and longer lifespans. The current office lighting remains at 80-90% efficiency. The bulbs consume less power and reduce greenhouse emissions. LED lights are also said to improve energy, mood and productivity levels which is perfect for a busy operation.
In June 2021, Graeme Hasson was appointed as the group Recycling and Sustainability Champion. Graeme oversees the company’s recycling efforts, ensuring that everyone complies with waste guidelines. The first action of his new role was to enrol the business as an ISCC Association Member, which is a sustainability certification system. Objectives of the membership include supporting production, processing and utilisation of sustainable feedstocks in the context of the ISCC system and thereby contributing to climate protection and ecological and social sustainability.
As a result of the group’s Recycling and Sustainability Champion, all cardboard and paper waste in the office is now recycled, which helps to reduce the amount sent to the landfill. This also means the quantity of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere is reduced. All cardboard used in the delivery process is made from recycled cardboard itself, as well as recycled and fully biodegradable paper packing tape. As well as encouraging recycling for cardboard and paper waste, the company compacts their waste which increases recycling efficiency, ensuring they can recycle more and send even less to the landfill.
All paper used in the offices and marketing material worldwide is FSC Certified and ethically sourced or fully recycled. Recycling ink cartridges also avoids any general waste streams, and an ongoing solution is being developed to further insulate the Liverpool factory roof to reduce electrical heating costs. Other small changes include gifting metal water bottles to staff to discourage single use plastic bottles and encouraging the use of Zoom calls to cut down on travel.
MEI machines are used for most of the glazing on site as these machines do not use water and therefore do not cause water contamination. They also do not use blocking pads or blocks, reducing the need for single use plastic. The new Glazed Package service offered by the company substantially reduces carbon footprint, as there is no need to send the product to a third-party glazing house.
From September 2021, Millmead will be manufacturing rPET spectacle cases in the UK. The investment into making rPET cases in Liverpool plans to reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping and reduces the damage to the environment. rPET, or polyethylene tetraphyte, is made from recycled plastic bottles. In addition to this, the group has introduced recycled cardboard jewellery boxes and rPET jewellery pouches for other retailers.
Launching in October 2021, Continental Eyewear are extending their Cameo collection and creating a new eco brand, Cameo Sustain. It will introduce 13 new models, all made from rPET material packed in biodegradable polybags. The frames will feature recycled plastic demo lenses, which are also recyclable. With 500 billion plastic bottles used every year, it takes just 3-4 plastic bottles to make one Cameo Sustain frame. Vitally, that means approximately 15,600 bottles have been recycled and reused when creating the first Cameo Sustain collection.
As the journey continues, James and Millmead are aiming to become a Certified B Corporation. The certification means that business meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability, which balances profit and purpose. B Corps use profits and growth to positively impact their employees, communities, and the environment. Positive social and environmental impact is something that a growing number of customers and consumers look for in their products, and Millmead hope that this status will certify them as major industry frontrunners.
Many of our strategies can be applied through the industry in all the different sectors and we would encourage all the stakeholders of this fantastic industry to begin embracing alternative ways of thinking about everything they do.
Millmead’s ongoing sustainability efforts show the huge variety of effective ways we can decrease the environmental impact of the optical industry.
The launch of the fantastic new rPET products later this year is sure to be a very exciting time for the company, especially in a time where more and more consumers are choosing climate conscious options, with eyewear being no exception.