The ECO eyewear label is a pioneer in sustainability. Its approach goes far beyond the use of recycled or biodegradable materials. Rather, ECO considers the entire value chain and also takes responsibility in various ecological and social projects. That their eyewear also meets optical standards pleases not only their environmentally and fashion-conscious target group, but also CEO Giovanni Lo Faro.
Hi Giovanni, you call ECO itself a pioneer in sustainability. Why?
We were amongst the very first to launch a sustainable collection 13 years ago. At that time “sustainability” was not a big buzzword in fashion and design. Our aim was to create an Eco-Chic brand, conscious of the environment but also design driven.
This approach is so important to you that you decided to include it as a motto in your brand name.
It is. What we aim to do every day with ECO is to have a tangible and accountable impact on our planet, on the environment and communities. It is not only about creating sustainable frames. More broadly, it’s about reinventing the entire product eco-system with the most sustainable solutions available—from the product and its case and the way it is presented, to in-store materials, to logistics. As we say “All big changes come in the form of many small ones”, and we believe all of us—supplier, optician and consumers—can make a positive change, one frame at a time.
In recent years, almost every brand has positioned itself with sustainable themes and is paying attention to its ecological footprint. Are you happy about this or do you rather have the feeling that many are now jumping on a “trend”?
We are happy about the increased awareness both in consumers and companies. We hope sustainability becomes a new paradigm through which we reinterpret our choices going forward. Customers are also gaining awareness of and becoming better able to recognize the ever-increasing greenwashing.
Why is ECO’s commitment still special?
We feel we made a lot of progress since our launch in 2009. We developed a 360-degree approach that goes beyond the product itself. We set up a one-for-one action, the One Frame, One Tree project, that empowers consumers – we plant a tree for every frame they purchase. And the product itself spans four different material families.
What exactly does a 360-degree approach mean to you?
Our mission is to make fully sustainable frames. Our packaging and POP materials are also recycled or biodegradable and made from renewable materials. We design them to optimize shipping size and to minimize our carbon footprint.
You mentioned your four material families. To what extent do they meet your high environmental standards?
Our product range is probably the widest in the market. We have collections with 95% Recycled Metal—that’s serious savings on natural resources. Our Biobased frames are crafted using castor seeds oil, the Bio Acetate collection is made from natural cotton and wood pulp and is biodegradable and then we have our collection in Ocean-sourced Plastics that means that with our frames we contribute actively to cleaning the seas and we have collected so far 30 tons of ocean plastic! But we never stop, and our designers keep on researching new materials and new ways to create eco conscious frames and engage our customers.
The conservation of resources is also reflected in your packaging. Which materials do you use?
Our transport bags are made of cornstarch and are 100% biodegradable, our outer boxes are made of recycled paper and our cases, and our cloths are out of recycled PET. Lastly, our displays are also made out of recycled and renewable materials.
You don’t just pay attention to your footprint when it comes to the use of materials—you also get involved in other areas. What’s an example of that?
Since the beginning of this adventure, we’ve been collaborating with the NGO Trees for the Future through our ECO – One Frame, One Tree initiative to plant a tree for every frame purchased.
How many have you been able to plant so far?
We recently achieved the goal of 2.9 million trees planted. That is a huge number, which we are very proud of! With this program we can offer concrete support to communities, providing food but also income, empowerment, and education.
That’s impressive. Where are the trees planted?
We have run the program in Cameroon, Tanzania and Senegal, sponsoring tree planting programs that also positively impact local communities.
There have also been ECO Beach Clean-Ups. What can you tell me about this?
I like that these Beach Clean Ups created a community. Some of them were made in collaboration with our retailers, who involved their customers. They gave people with the same interests the opportunity to meet and have fun while doing something we believe in and that’s helpful for our beaches. I love the fact that our brand is evolving more and more into a community.
Do you receive any kind of recognition for your commitment?
ECO has received the UL certification, which is very important for us, and we won several design awards such as the German Design Award, the A’Design Award and two IF Design Awards. These awards mean a lot to us because we are a design company after all. We want to offer a product that is design and style conscious.
But even more important is the feedback from your customers. Are consumers becoming more aware of sustainable production processes?
For sure. Consumers are very well informed now and they have the tools to understand and to judge your work. That’s good and right—it gives greater value to their feedback. Now, when we hear about happy customers around the world, it offers more meaningful job satisfaction—it makes us more than happy. We are very open about our production processes and about all our initiatives in general. We like to give our customers as much information as possible because we believe it’s their right to know what they are buying.
You sent us new styles for our shoot. What is special about them?
Our frames always have a spontaneous look that’s suitable for everyday wear and that considers ECO’s wide-ranging audience. The new shapes and colors launched this season clearly reflect our identity—which is what has made us recognizable and consistent over these years.
The products are lightweight and comfortable, with a great deal of attention put into design and technical details such as our famous clip-ons or our new hinges.
Are you looking to break new ground with them, or are you going to strengthen the existing collection structure?
In the past two seasons we have launched two new material families, ECO Ocean and the Bio Acetate and recently we introduced the Bio Acetate sun collections. We have been a runaway train, so now it is time to dedicate ourselves even more to what we have done—enlarging the collections, introducing new details, and focusing on the new advertising campaign that we all hope you’ll like!
photos RAPHAEL SCHMITZ