Better Businesses, Outdoors

Better Businesses: Mountain Hardwear

BuildingExterior Better Businesses: Mountain Hardwear What they Do: Make apparel and gear for a variety of outdoor sports, including running, skiing, climbing, and backpacking. Founded: 1993 Based in: Richmond, CA We Like: 40 hours of pair volunteer time a year, unannounced factory inspections.

We all know this company; exceptional gear and huge proponents for the outdoors. What you may not know is that this company also sets significant examples in being a business with very high social ethics. I was able to speak with Guru Khalsa from their social responsibility department and glean some insight on the deeper company that Mountain Hardwear (MHW) truly is. Guru previously worked for Columbia Sportswear in their Sustainability department and now works in managing MHW’s Company responsibility. This includes working with both the social and environmental ethics of her company’s practices.

Insanity Group workout

The phrase that kept popping up in our conversation, and what I later found out was a prominent motto for the company, was “the right thing to do.”

Mountain Hardwear, becoming part of Columbia Sportswear in 2003, is transparent about their practices. Head over to Columbia Sportswear’s website as well as MHW’s in the next couple months (they’re planning on rebuilding their site) and look under their corporate responsibility page. You will find plenty of information about company practices. They work and function by 3 major values; be resource efficient, be aware, and empower individuals. More specifically, there are 3 categories, or initiatives, MHW focuses on specifically; People, Value Chain, and Future.

People: They are a company that wants to both inspire their employees as well as create a community of critical thinking. As I was talking with Guru about this subject, I almost hightailed it down to Berkley to beg for a job at their headquarters (I resisted). Their facility has mostly natural lighting, 100% solar powered energy, floors made of recycled tires, a gym, a kayak/boat dock for water adventures during lunch breaks, a climbing wall, bikes for commuters or for lunch break rides, and…you can bring your dogs to work. My new goal? Get Billy to send me here for a Trek Tech field trip. They have a plethora of other amazing perks and incentives for their employees; one of my favorites is the 40 hours of paid volunteer time per year for the organization of your choice.

Mountain Hardwear Offices (1)

Value Chain: This is the entire process of making gear from obtaining materials for MHW’s products to the end of the products’ life. MHW is constantly reviewing and improving the social and environmental consequences of this process. The company has a code of conduct with specific standards for all facets of their business. One key step they’re taking for these standards is having a team in each location of their global factories that know the local community and culture that enable both direct relationships with suppliers and high levels of transparency. Factories in other countries are carefully selected and again have a high standard code of conduct. Their audits of the global factories are unannounced. Ultimately, MHW is doing their best to work with organizations and factories that share their own values.

 In regards to environmental responsibility, MHW functions by the standards of what’s called the Higg index. This measuring system allows companies to track areas in which they are being both efficient and responsible in a product’s life as well areas needing growth, such as a product’s end of life plan and material sustainability. Both retail stores in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA are LEED certified (the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability).

Solar Panels on Roof

Future: MHW is committed to investing in our future for generations to come. Through their support of the Conservation Alliance, MHW has participated in helping to conserve 1,124,841 million acres of land and 38.5 river miles. Other organizations that MHW gives to or is a member of are Glacier Works, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Fair Labor Association, American Apparel and Footwear Association, and Outdoor Industry Association Sustainable Working Group.

Guru sums of the company’s goal as such: “to make a significant contribution to apparel & footwear being made in sustainable, ethical way that creates increased social & environmental value.”




Wendy Ewing

Wendy Ewing is a Washignton native and Northern California transplant. Growing up at the base of the North Cascades, her entire upbringing revolved around the mountains. With her family, Wendy spent most of her childhood backpacking, mountaineering, skiing, and mountain biking. With a strong passion for wilderness ethics and personal growth and development, she decided to pursue building Wild Beginnings Adventure Co. Wendy has written gear reviews for Trek Tech, Innovation & Tech Today, and Active Junky. In the winter season you can find her back country skiing and both trail running and mountain biking the rest of the year. Wendy lives in Shasta Lake, CA with her husband, John, and their adventure retriever, Sauvie.