4.2 billion people in the world require vision correction, of which 2.5 billion have no access to corrective measures
Three months ago, Essilor International SA, the French maker of ophthalmic lenses, created the position of chief corporate mission officer (CCMO) within the executive committee of the company. The “mission” for the newly appointed CCMO Jayanth Bhuvaraghan is to improve access for vision correction to 2.5 billion people who need corrective measures.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 4.2 billion people in the world require vision correction, of which 2.5 billion have no access to corrective measures. The disability affects more than 550 million Indians as per conservative estimates. Industry estimates suggest that 42% of India’s workforce needs vision correction, presenting a lucrative opportunity for early movers like Essilor.
According to conservative estimates by industry analysts, one child out of four in India has an eyesight problem. Over the next few decades, this is exactly the kind of problem Essilor is looking to capitalize on. The appointment of a CCMO embeds an innovative social policy within the company’s long-term strategy and the heart of its corporate initiatives.
“It is increasingly becoming clear that corporate citizens will have to innovate to find a way to position business targets in line with CSR initiatives,” says Hubert Sagnières, chairman and chief executive officer of Essilor. CSR is short for corporate social responsibility.
“This is the first handicap of the world. We are looking at people-driven targets and hopefully the business will improve if we reach those targets. The idea is to make people realize the economic burden of poor vision. This is a model where the company grows with the growth and the social initiatives become sustainable,” he said.
The company’s philanthropic arm, Essilor Vision Foundation, and a first-of-its-kind knowledge data bank, Vision Impact Institute (VII), will be scaling up social initiatives in India over the coming months. Sagnières was in India to launch VII, which will be based out of the company’s headquarters in Bangalore.
Moving away from conventional, for-profit business targets, Essilor’s newly created position will bring together the company’s various social initiatives in line with the corporate mission. “I am very excited about the launch of the Vision Impact Institute in India. This institute supported by Essilor will act as a global connector of all studies on vision problems and will help give vision a voice,” said CCMO Bhuvaraghan.
To start with, the company is aiming for so-called low-lying fruit by launching pilot projects making corrective eyewear available to taxi drivers, schoolchildren and so on. Further down the line, through VII, the company is aiming to address India’s data poverty in ophthalmic disease by collecting available data and funding research before approaching policymakers for a more targeted intervention.
“The idea is to reach out to the bottom of the pyramid. We have been engaged in CSR activities for decades. This is just an attempt to scale it up and make it more visible. It was not easy, but it was a natural progression for us to now mix traditional economic activity with development issues,” added Bhuvaraghan.
(Source : Live Mint)