Since the day it was born on the water in 1983, Costa has been about more than just selling premium polarized sunglasses. From its inception, the company’s founders, leaders and employees have shared an intrinsic commitment to protect the environment that its customers work and live in and around—the water. This conviction has grown over the last 35 years and encompasses support of more than 15 different environmental causes and initiatives— from shark research and marine plastic pollution prevention to natural disaster crisis response. Moving far beyond financial support, Costa’s contributions include investments in staff time who care and have the passion to do the work—actually putting the boots on the ground and putting in the time—to make an impact.
Listening First: Supporting the Causes that Matter the Most
| || Amanda Sabin, avid angler and fishing community leader for Costa, recently achieved membership in the International Game Fish Association’s Royal Billfish Slam Club, catching 10 different types of billfish in one calendar year. |
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It’s not just about supporting any cause that comes their way, though—Costa has done its homework to find out what causes are important to the water lovers using their product. This starts with the staff they hired to manage cause efforts with key stakeholders. The Costa ‘Community Leaders’ are Costa employees whose entire professional responsibility is to work with various fishing communities to recognize issues and find ways to help.
“The only way we know what to support is by talking to the people in these communities and seeing what they want,” said Mike Holliday, in-shore community manager, Costa. “We try to engage them on many levels—whether it’s by fishing with them or attending events with them to talk to them about environmental priorities.”
“We aren’t going to push causes on people—we want to know what causes the anglers care about,” added Amanda Sabin, core community leader at Costa. “Fishing pros will come to us and ask us to join them on projects. We love to work that way.”
Just like the familiar adage “there are plenty more fish in the sea,” Costa’s community spans a wide array of interests and locations, from offshore fishing, fly fishing, bass fishing and college students, to U.S. and international water-lovers. Because the Costa communities are so diverse, they supports an array of water-related causes from the mountains to the seas protecting every waterway that its tribe calls home.
Driving Change from the Inside and Out
Driven by the mantra that change must start from within, Costa has internalized corporate social responsibility in several unique ways. They use a bio-based, eco-friendly resin in nylon sunglasses and optical frames and have recently launched new, bio-resin demo lenses in the Costa Optical Collection. In late May, Costa will release the 2018 Limited Edition Untangled Collection of sunglasses made 100 percent from recycled fishing nets in partnership with Patagonia and Bureo, a company working to prevent and reduce ocean plastic pollution. In addition, Costa is the founder of the #KickPlastic movement, an initiative to reduce plastic usage and specifically help rid the ocean of plastic pollution. Costa focused first on its internal facilities and has expanded the program to work with fishing lodges and their local guides. This year, Costa is launching a Kick Plastic Ambassador Program for optical professionals to help them—and their patients—commit to recycling and to reusable water sources and help clean up their communities.
| || The Costa team traveled to the Florida Keys after Hurricane Irma with supplies and manpower to help with cleanup efforts. The team was also instrumental in helping to create the #OneCoast initiative. |
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Costa works with various saltwater communities and organizations to promote protection of the ocean. Costa is also a founding partner of OCEARCH, a group of explorers and scientists dedicated to shark research. Their mission is to increase awareness of shark conservation and the animal’s important role in the ocean’s ecosystem. Costa also supports the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the International Game Fish Association and the Billfish Foundation. These organizations work to promote tournaments and tagging programs that help create a better understanding of marlin and billfish habits.
Onshore, Costa partners with Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, a Florida-based conservation group focused on everglades restoration and bonefish, tarpon and permit research, as well as the Coastal Conservation Association, which works to protect marine resources through trash pickup programs and raising awareness about pollution. Costa also partners with Trout Unlimited to help recruit more young conservationists to join the cause.
Globally, Costa has also affected change through conservation efforts. The team embarked to assist a fishing village in Guyana, where logging industries were having a negative effect on the natural jungles surrounding the village. Costa’s team helped the village harness a resource in their backyard—the arapaima, the largest freshwater fish on the planet. With Costa’s help, the village reinvented itself as an eco-tourism designation and now attracts some of the best fly fishermen in the world. The Protect Guyana program spun off into Project Indifly, an effort to continue to find projects where catch and release sport fishing can be an economic driver for conservation and community.
Finally, Costa’s cause efforts have made a difference close to home for its employees and customers. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Costa pledged financial relief (including 100% of profits from orders placed during International Vision Expo West in September 2017) as well as staff hours and food, water, gas, camping equipment and tools to clean up the coast. The #OneCoast effort supports anglers and angling communities around the world in the wake of major natural disasters.
What’s Next for Costa & Cause?
| || Costa will partner with Patagonia and Bureo in late May 2018 to release the limited edition Untangled Collection of sunglasses, made from recycled fishing nets. |
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| || Costa contributes to sustainability through partners like OCEARCH, a shark research organization, and by encouraging alternatives to single-use plastics with the #KickPlastic program. |
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The broad array of causes and initiatives Costa supports has given the company a strong foundation to affect real change. But they are not satisfied with resting where they are. It’s in Costa’s DNA to always do more—to keep working to educate and bring awareness. Costa’s next goal is to help the optical industry, in particular retailers and independent ECPs, to come along on the journey to affect change. Costa’s industry research supports this: a recent survey conducted among eyecare professionals shows that 83 percent surveyed said it was important to them to have a socially responsible practice, and 58 percent were interested in environmental causes.3 ECPs face the same challenges everyone faces in lack of time, money and resources. Costa is there to help, by providing information about the problems, ways to get involved and resources to help.
“Being purpose driven is an integral part of who we are. Whether that’s protecting our oceans or caring for our communities, our employees want to be part of making the world a better place —without their passion and the support of our customers, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Holly Rush, CEO, Costa.
1. The Economist Group. (2017, September) Economic Purpose: Where social purpose and good business intersect.
2. CONE Communications. (2017, May 17) Americans Willing To Buy Or Boycott Companies Based On Corporate Values, According To New Research By Cone Communications.
3. Jobson Optical Research. (2018, March 5) 2018 Social Responsibility Survey.