The Sustainability Challenge Faced by Small Emerging Brands

Covid-19 has created a monumental shift in the consumer landscape. Consumers are craving transparency. As such, some of the ugly truths have begun to surface around the eyewear industry’s practices and harmful effects on the environment.

The fashion and eyewear industries are continually criticized for lacking clarity in regard to their sustainable, ethical, and social practices. As the smoke begins to clear, the industries are scrambling to meet the demand.

The shift in consumer expectations toward brand accountability necessitates the brand’s need to set their sustainable record early on. However, this poses challenges for young emerging brands in terms of communicating and highlighting their sustainability commitments. The effects of the pandemic have shifted consumer expectations toward a focus on sustainability, leading both large and small brands to take action. The commitments seen thus far have proven positive, but places further financial strain on young brands with limited funding.

These brands typically don’t have large budgets to communicate and emphasise their commitments, nor to pay the substantial salary of a sustainability officer to oversee and advise on such practices. This lack of in-depth sustainability focus is leading some to believe that the brands aren’t, in fact, taking steps to minimize their environmental impact.


Sustainability is a core component of Upper District’s brand identity and has been since being founded in 2017. What initially was our UVP, is now becoming quite commonplace in the industry. As an emerging brand we’re ensuring that we’re emphasizing our sustainability efforts, but also using our funds strategically. We’ve focused on engaging with, and bringing on-board, vetted organizations to dissect our supply-chain processes, our materials, and our logistics to ensure we’re minimizing our impacts. Our commitments focus on short-term and long-term, but also within a living document that will evolve as we grow.

Small brands can communicate and emphasize their sustainability commitments in a few small ways that have a big impact:

1. Partner with vetted organizations that can help to develop attainable and scalable commitments.
2. Develop framework goals which can be fine-tuned into a more detailed strategy using evolving data and evidence as it becomes available over time.
3. Pledge small commitments which address and mitigate their direct impacts and identify relevant strategies throughout the supply chain.
4. Emphasize the management of their impacts and make positive contributions in their place.
5. Continually inform their consumers of the efforts put forth to allow for full transparency.

Emerging as a new luxury brand involves a host of challenges, however through strategic planning and decision-making, we believe small brands can break through the noise. Despite being a small brand in the industry, we place a big focus on our sustainability efforts and commitments and believe others can do the same.

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