This week’s SEE Summit on sustainability in optics almost felt like a watershed moment for the industry. If there was any doubt as to the seriousness of the global problem, the talk given by the government’s Special Representative for Climate Change, Nick Bridge, should have quickly seen it off.

Bridge was looking ahead to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this month and outlined the perilous position the world finds itself in, and the delicate situation the world’s leaders find themselves in, because fairness has to feature in climate pledges. For example, it would be very easy to look at China, which is predicted to be responsible for roughly half of the world’s future emissions and say, ‘it needs to do more in future.’ You’d be right, but in the wider timeline of industrialisation, it has only been a bit part player when compared to the heavily industrialised western world, which is accountable for 200 years of pollution.

Crucially, Bridge said most of the real world change comes at small and medium-sized business level – small differences in thinking, conversations and actions. Think of it as Sir Dave Brailsford’s concept of marginal gains.

But that doesn’t mean global players are off the hook. The eyewear, ophthalmic lens and contact lens sectors have a massive role to play in future. And their customers will be holding them to account. Sustainability is now front of mind for young patients and if they’re not suitably influenced today, they’re unlikely to be the patients of tomorrow.

Thankfully, most manufacturers have had sustainability plans in place for a number of years, but to really crack the nut, business models may well have to demonstrate a bit of flex. The premise of a piece of plastic that gets disposed of each day is at odds with current thinking, as is the notion of not being able to reuse a frame when new lenses are required. Something has to give.