Hestra Leather Mitten

overall rating:

0.2

planets

Mia Thomas
3/9/2022
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As someone who grew up in the ski/outdoor community, where individuals notoriously have a passion for mitigating the effects of climate change and other environmental degradations, I became interested in looking at the impact of the products I use to enjoy these outdoor activities. I always found it a bit paradoxical how lovers of the outdoors, including myself, are especially worried about climate change due to the impact it will have on recreation, yet many of the products we use to recreate have a high environmental impact. Although I do not blame the consumer for these effects, I believe it is important to bring awareness to the impact of these design choices in hopes of influencing change at the production and manufacturing stages of the life cycle. I also believe that bringing awareness to the environmental effects of these products will encourage consumers to not buy the newest jacket when their old one is perfectly fine, or to pass down old ski/outdoor wear that others will find great use out of. I reviewed the Hestra Leather Mitten that I use for downhill skiing, which is known to be one of the most durable and warm gloves on the market. I gave this product a score of 0.2 due to their harmful materials used, dangerous labor practices, and environmental pollution/damage from production.

What it's made of:

0.5

The Hestra Leather Mitten is made of impregnated cowhide on the outside of the glove and fiberfill insulation on the inside of the glove. Cowhide is a byproduct of the cattle industry and therefore is very plentiful and affordable compared to other types of leather. The downside of this leather is that it is in direct connection to the beef industry which produces a high amount of methane and some carbon dioxide. Hestra’s Sustainability Report outlines that they have recently joined the Leather Working Group. This group is working to reduce the impacts that leather has on the environment, such as deforestation and poor life cycles, by giving certifications to those who meet certain standards. They cover the entire value chain that the leather industry goes through, such as tanneries, chemical suppliers, and manufacturers. Hestra’s tannery, located in Pakistan has since improved their water treatment plant, working conditions, and energy/water consumption, earning them a gold rating. But, the purchased leather from the Leather Working Group only accounts for 20% of their purchases, and therefore Hestra still has a lot of improving to do. 

Fiberfill insulation is a very sustainable product as it is made from polyester and other recycled materials. Polyester also has negative environmental impacts such as plastic waste, use of petroleums, and microplastics leaking into water when washed. It is very inexpensive to make and easy to use for a variety of different clothing purposes. Hestra has made some great improvements in their manufacturing processes but unfortunately leather and polyester have detrimental effects on the environment. Striking a balance between building a durable, warm glove while mitigating these effects has proven to be difficult, but I am hopeful that Hestra will continue making improvements to their sustainability and therefore I have given a rating of 0.5 planets for this section.

How it's made:

0

Hestra has 4 production factories that operate in Hungary, Vietnam, and China. The shipping and transportation of these materials and products is associated with high carbon emissions. These countries often have poor labor rights and issues with transparency about the conditions workers are enduring. Additionally, many of these factories run on fossil fuels. One positive aspect of Hestra’s business operations is that they own all of their factories themselves, which gives them more control over the labor practices and environmental impact of their factories processes. But even with this “control” their factories were given B and C ratings by BSCI, an initiative which aims to target and track workplace standards. Hestra is working with BSCI and other groups such as The Swedish Chemicals Group to improve their practices. Additionally, as I mentioned above, the processes that leather must go through in the production phase of its life cycle pose many environmental effects. First of all, the treatment that cows go through for their cowhide is extremely cruel and is associated with high methane emissions. They are often in feedlots for most of their life where they experience terrible conditions and are then slaughtered. These materials are then shipped to tanneries which have extremely high pollutants and energy usage. Those who are working in the tannery have to experience negative effects of exposure to harsh chemicals that are extremely carcinogenic. One of the most devastating effects of leather production is the deforestation caused from needing pastureland and access to water. Additionally, there is a high level of water runoff from these feedlots that leads to eutrophication. Hestra touched on their efforts to reduce their energy consumption, get their chemicals tested regularly, and encourage consumers to just replace the liner of their glove when necessary, not the entire product. Despite these efforts the processes necessary for cowhide leather production are extremely detrimental to the environment, which is why I have given Hestra a score of 0 in this category.

Who makes it:

0

As I mentioned above many people working in the factories producing Hestra Gloves are international. Hestra has reported having more than 600 colleagues in Sweden, Norway, Hungary, China, Vietnam, USA, and Germany. Because Hestra experiences their highest amount of demand during the winter season, they hire employees on a short term basis in the winter months. Given their inconsistent demand, they sometimes give their employees extended annual leave with 80 percent salary. But, there could be some instances where workers are not given the compensation they deserve with these short term contracts. Another issue in Hestra’s employment is their major lack of diversity within their company. Most of the seamstresses in their factories are female (around 80%). This was difficult for the company during COVID-19 as lockdowns and schools closing required mothers to be home with their children. At other headquarters and retail stores the gender balance is more even, but Hestra would be smart to increase their diversity in their factories. As mentioned above, there is a high potential risk in the leather industry with poor protection of worker rights and environmental health effects these workers experience. Although Hestra has done some work to partner with the Leather Group and other groups that are trying to lessen the harsh impact in these production processes, workers who have no choice but to work in these tanneries are going to experience terrible repercussions from exposure to chemicals and potential injuries. Given that most of Hestra’s manufacturing is outsourced in places where the transparency is lacking surrounding labor practices coupled with their lack of diversity and dangerous labor, I have given Hestra a score of 0 planets in this category.