Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid Gore-Tex Women's Hiking Boots

overall rating:

1.5

planets

Julia Martin
8/4/2021
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Salomon is an established company with origins in ski bindings and boots that has turned to manufacturing gear for a wide variety of mountain sports. They are passionate about the outdoors (which they commonly refer to as their “playground”) and creating state of the art technology to improve the outdoor experience for consumers. The X Ultra 4 boot is Salomon’s latest release in the hiking and backpacking field and features strong foot support and stability for long days on the trail. The materials used to create this shoe provide for an enjoyable and comfortable hiking experience, but some features like waterproofing and coated leather have big negative impacts on the environment. Salomon has big ambitions for the future with a new factory under construction which they hope will improve their supply chain and manufacturing process. I hope Salomon uses their passion for innovative technology to create more environmentally-friendly materials for their products in the future while still providing high quality apparel and shoes. 

What it's made of:

1

The Ultra X 4’s are made of a variety of foams, leathers, rubbers, and coated materials that come together to construct a well-designed shoe. The main problem with these materials is their synthetic nature and tendency to not lend themselves well to recycling or repurposing. The boot utilizes EVA foam as a shock absorber, which is a material made by combining polymers ethylene and vinyl acetate in “high-pressure reactors” (Plastics Insight). While this foam is convenient for its flexibility and durability, it’s seldom recycled and doesn’t break down easily. Polyurethane coated leather, another poorly sourced material, also comprises a main part of this shoe. Polyurethane is a plastic material made from petroleum which can be manufactured into several different forms like coatings in this case. While coating the leather does help make it last longer, the price to pay for manufacturing this coating is not worth it since it’s made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Additionally, polyurethane can cause harm to peoples’ lungs which poses a risk to those coating the leather with this material. The bottom of the shoe is made of rubber (like most hiking boots), which is another synthetic material with petroleum origins. Perhaps the most sustainable materials in the shoe come from separate companies, the insole from OrthoLite® and the waterproof outerlayer from Gore-Tex. Both of these companies provide much more information about the source of their materials than Salomon does. OrthoLite® insoles contain recycled rubber, and Gore-Tex uses recycled materials in their fabric and is committed to making many environment-related shifts like reducing microplastic content from their products that ends up in waterways. Overall, Salomon could improve the physical makeup of these hiking boots by including more recycled materials and generally being more transparent about the materials’ sources. On their website, Salomon aims that “100% of Salomon products have their environmental performance visible by the consumer” by 2025, so time will tell how Salomon proceeds with their material sourcing.

How it's made:

1.5

Salomon is currently building a new manufacturing facility in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France that’s set to open shortly. The location of this factory allows the company to manufacture their products close to where consumers are, especially compared to manufacturing goods in Asia and transporting them all the way to Europe and North America. Salomon also cites that their proximal location to the French market will allow them to adapt and react quickly to specific demands which will allow Salomon to be able to produce their goods in smaller quantities and not overproduce and waste materials. I believe this local model has many benefits, both social and environmental, and I am curious to see how their factory plays out.

Salomon does give consumers access to a carbon footprint report conducted in 2015, which shows a commitment to transparency. However, the report displays an increase in fuel combustion, electricity use, and water use over time. The study in the report was conducted from 2009 to 2015, so it is also slightly outdated. I hope Salomon uses this information to their advantage over the next few years as they work towards their long list of climate objectives for 2025. These objectives span a wide range of topics like social impact, energy use, and recycling. Some specific ones includes designing products with easy reparability in mind to allow for a more circular economy and reduced energy consumption in their headquarters building by installing LED lights. Overall, Salomon’s website is filled with goals and partnerships with external environmental organizations, but most of what is published is beginnings of initiatives with little more than a skeleton of a plan. Salomon definitely has several strong ideas, but at this current point in time they are still in the very early stage of achieving the sustainability goals they put forward as a company.

Who makes it:

2

As a French company, it is very important for Salomon to support their community in and around Annecy, France, where they originated and currently operate. I believe they will achieve that goal with their new factory because it will provide jobs to many local residents of the area and will allow the company to step away from sweatshop labor. At their headquarters, Salomon provides their employees with organic meals, yoga and exercise classes, and low-carbon emissions transportation to and from work. The company also funds outdoors and cultural clubs which allows the employees to build community and share their collective passion for the outdoors. From their website, it seems Salomon truly cares about the wellbeing of their employees and creates a community-oriented work environment. Again, many of Salomon’s 2025 objectives relate to labor practices and include goals like ensuring that their suppliers uphold as high a standard for employee treatment as Salomon does.

Salomon continues transparency by publishing their Gender Equality Index as 87/100 which they base off of factors like gender pay gap and percentage of women who return to work after maternity leave. This score appears to be a self-evaluation so it may is possible it includes biases, but the company is transparent about ways they could improve like promoting more women to the top 10 highest earning positions within the company.