How to add philanthropy to your business model

Vancouver-based eyewear retailer Clearly has no shortage of ambition when it comes to giving back. “Around 2.7 billion people worldwide, including nearly 2.5 million Canadians, suffer from uncorrected vision problems,” it says. Clearly CEO Arnaud Bussieres, who took over the lead role in 2018. “It is our duty as market leaders to deal with this problem.”

Clearly has donated more than 600,000 pairs of glasses to people in need since 2010, mainly because it made it a point to meet those specific numbers from the start. The company treats its philanthropic objectives like any other business objective, which means setting measurable goals.

The company organizes its philanthropic efforts around three pillars. The first, “Clearly for Community,” offers twice-monthly pop-ups located near Clearly stores that provide vision care to underserved groups. It clearly works with partners that are already active in the community, such as Vancouver’s Gathering Place, a downtown center serving low-income people, people with disabilities, and the homeless.

A photo of Dr. Justin Asgarpour, Clearly's director of vision and mission
Dr. Justin Asgarpour, Clearly’s director of vision and mission (photo: Jackie Dives)

Clearly’s second philanthropic pillar is an in-store initiative. At each of the company’s seven locations in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, children under the age of 10 can get a free pair of glasses each year as long as they have a recent prescription and health card. In doing so, the company is committed to serving the 30 percent of Canadian children who use or need vision correction.

The third pillar is a partnership with Vision for Life, a social impact fund managed by Clearly’s parent company, EssilorLuxottica. Clearly donates a pair of glasses for every pair purchased to underserved communities in more than 42 countries, including Bangladesh, Zambia and India, in partnership with dozens of global NGOs. “I think we’re seeing a big shift in the importance of building social impact within business,” says Justin Asgarpour, MD, optometrist and Clearly’s chief vision and mission officer. “That resonates a lot with the public. I think it improves trust between customers and team members.”

It clearly spends more than a million dollars a year to support its humanitarian mission, an investment that has gradually increased with the growth of the company. The cost of these programs is built directly into Clearly’s business model and budget. “Our mission is core and fundamental to Clearly, so it needs to be planned for at all levels,” says Asgarpour. “For an initiative to be scalable and durable, it must be sustainable.”

Labor costs for community viewing events are not part of that equation, as volunteer work is built right into Clearly’s staffing model. Every employee, no matter what department they work in, is expected to contribute a minimum of eight volunteer hours to the sight pop-ups each year. “Leveraging the human power of our teams not only reduces labor costs for these events, but also helps engage the team in our overall mission,” says Asgarpour.

As with any ambitious philanthropic goal, the key is to break it down and take it one step at a time, says Bussieres. Clearly’s targeted initiatives keep the organization moving toward a common goal while engaging staff and building partnerships with other organizations. “It’s nice to be able to draw a really clear ROI model on every initiative you set up,” says Asgarpour. “But sometimes taking a step back and seeing the impact you can have is a really important exercise.”

Leave a Comment