Updates to our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program

We started Warby Parker by reimagining everything that a company and industry can be. To do good—impacting the world in a meaningful way—became a guiding principle and remains one of our core values today. Now, in response to COVID-19, we’ve needed to evolve every aspect of our business, including figuring out new ways to make a positive impact on communities in need.

In some cases, we’re creating new initiatives. Since the pandemic’s outbreak, we’ve donated personal protective equipment for distribution to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, NYU Langone Health, and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.

In other cases, we are adapting existing programs to meet urgent needs. For a decade, we’ve focused our do good efforts on helping the world see by making vision services more accessible. Through our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, we’ve worked with a handful of partners worldwide to ensure that for every pair of glasses purchased, a pair is distributed to someone in need. In many of the countries where we support vision access programs, however, the rising COVID-19 case count poses a grave threat to our partners, health workers, and residents in densely populated slums, artisan clusters, and other low-income communities. While some of our partners are safely maintaining glasses distribution, the majority are unable to at the moment.

We’ve thought a lot over the past few months about what Buy a Pair, Give a Pair could become in these unprecedented times and how we could best use our resources to help those who need it most. While we continue to fund glasses distribution where we can without compromising the health of our partners or the community, we’ve decided to temporarily shift the majority of our efforts to prioritize public health and safety. Right now, we are responding to the immediate needs of our longest-standing partner, VisionSpring, to protect healthcare workers and slow COVID-19 transmission in high-risk communities where they work—principally in India, Bangladesh, and sub-Saharan Africa. As of April 1, 2020, for the majority of Warby Parker glasses purchased, personal protective equipment and prevention supplies will be distributed to people in need.

VisionSpring is leveraging their supply chain, community mobilizers, and network of hospitals and clinics to provide frontline health workers with protective goggles, face shields, surgical and respirator masks, medical gowns and more. In addition, community health workers and rural pharmacists are receiving washable cloth masks. With our funding, VisionSpring is also setting up hand-washing stations and distributing hygiene kits for households. VisionSpring estimates that this COVID-19 response plan will directly serve over 500,000 people through the end of 2020.

We’re confident about this approach for a number of reasons. First, we believe that it provides the support necessary for both immediate and long-term community resilience, particularly in the marginalized, under-resourced areas where our nonprofit partners work. This shift will also help create a strong sourcing and distribution network for protective gear, bolstering VisionSpring’s emergency COVID-19 relief efforts and preparing their vision services providers for long-term changes in infection prevention and control practices. VisionSpring’s executive team has extensive experience in disaster relief, and with our refocused funding, we’re helping ensure that they have enough financial support during this difficult period to continue to share their valuable expertise, provide necessary aid, and return to vision services safely.

Like so many others, we could have never imagined these extraordinary circumstances and the effects they’d have on our Buy a Pair, Give a Pair partners and participants. Vision for all remains our ultimate objective, and we’re working to find safe ways to resume our glasses distribution programs. As the pandemic unfolds, we’ll continue to evolve the ways in which we collaborate with our partners, serve our communities, and take steps to remediate the challenges brought forth during these uncertain times.

Published on June 25, 2020