The “In conversation with” series continues as we sit down with Christina Xu, VP Brand of QE Home, to talk about their green story, sustainability challenges and future plans. Read on to learn more about QE Home’s sustainability journey!

Tell us a bit about yourself, your role and the story behind QE Home.

Founded in 1992, QE Home is a Canadian family-owned brand focused on designing high quality, beautiful, and trusted bedding that’s delivered to customers via unparalleled service. We have 75+ stores across the country, supported by a fast growing e-commerce business, where we help to expertly style the sleeps of over a million customers a year.

As for myself, I have a background in product design from Rhode Island School of Design and an MBA from University of British Columbia. Very much born into QE Home (my father is one of the founders), I worked in startup consulting for several years before returning here where I felt there was a huge opportunity for the company to make a greater positive impact. Currently my role is VP Brand, helping shape QE Home to be Canada’s most trusted bedding store and transition a traditionally unsustainable industry into a new era of growth based around the triple bottom line – people, profit, planet.

What does sustainability mean to you, and transparency?

Fundamentally, sustainability means taking responsibility to secure the future of the planet and in turn, the resources necessary to continue delivering comfort to our customers.

In the context of business specifically, I think James Tansey put it well, “I would define sustainability in terms of our capacity as a species to innovate in response to the unintended consequences of social change and economic development.”

At QE Home (and the textile industry as a whole), sustainable transformation requires creative problem solving, leveraging innovative technology, and working with forward-thinking partners.

Sustainability isn’t easy, especially not the way more and more marketing makes it out to be, and so transparency is really critical in educating customers on the true “cost” of goods – not just monetary but environmental cost. It’s about revealing the ugly truths so that customers fully understand how it impacts the planet when they buy and use a product. Enabling this requires thorough documentation, meaningful metrics, and tools to educate customers so that they can make informed purchasing decisions. A transition to sustainability is a process that involves input from all stakeholders. We very much want our customers to be a part of the journey, feeling involved, and celebrating wins with us.

What are the main sustainability challenges a brand like QE Home faces today?

To improve our environmental impact, we need to be able to measure it first. Internally, we’ve been able to make major headway on calculating the impact of our operations and take strides towards minimizing them. However looking upstream, being in the textile industry our supply chains span the globe across a spectrum of economies. Getting first hand data is nearly impossible, especially in the face of uncontrollable factors, so we must rely on second hand data. Nowadays, we have to be wary of opportunists capitalizing on the “green trend” and providing inaccurate or non-credible data. Being diligent about vetting the partners and certification bodies we work with is critical to building a transparent and trusted brand.

Once we get that information and establish those baselines, the challenge then becomes working with our suppliers to essentially make more out of less – getting their buy-in and working with them to make more products using less resources such as water and energy. That requires building mutually beneficial relationships and working together to innovate.

On the consumer side, the challenge is to balance our sustainability goals while not losing sight of the brand value that we’ve provided our customers for the last 30 years – high quality at accessible prices. Unfortunately the market is at a stage where the sustainable choice is often the less affordable one and so it’s taken a lot of problem solving and education to continue delivering the value our customers expect. And we’ve found success with our bamboo and TENCEL™ fabrics that are both good for the planet and uncompromising on our brand values.

What are the main marketing challenges in communicating product sustainability? What are your 3 green marketing must-do’s?

The rise in greenwashing amongst brands creates a challenge for us to stand out and prove that our sustainability efforts are authentic. At the end of the day, customers want things to be accessible. They want to buy sustainably, but they don’t want it to be difficult. Textiles are already an industry where the correlation to emissions or energy usage isn’t tangible or relatable. People understand the harm of plastic bottles, but what about polyester? So it’s a challenge to communicate the true “cost” of goods to customers in a relatable and simple way, while still being detailed and transparent enough to set ourselves apart from the brands who are greenwashing.

While I think there’s still so much room for improvement in how we communicate sustainability to our customers, the 3 things that have worked for us are:

  • Put impact metrics in relatable terms! Customers often shy away from scientific jargon, so relating metrics like “X kgs of CO2 emissions offset = Y cars taken off the road” and using visuals help concepts click.
  • Train your staff first! If your teams understand and promote sustainability, it makes the customer communications all the more authentic and easy.
  • Make sure product quality is not compromised! For as much marketing as we can do, if a customer thinks the sustainable product is inferior, it’s a hard sell.

Through Simplizero Ecommerce, QE Home’s product carbon footprint is measured based on a life cycle assessment with data sourced from accredited partners. By doing so, we ensure we’re offsetting the exact impact of QE Home’s products throughout the supply chain.

What are your top priorities for this year and the next few years?

To improve our environmental impact in a credible and transparent way, we need to first collect data and establish environmental baselines throughout all aspects of our value chain. We’re deep in this lengthy process and this year, with the help of sustainability platforms like Green Story, we’re able to cover areas of our supply chain we previously couldn’t.

As baselines are determined, we’ll establish science-based sustainability targets throughout our operations and implement internal sustainability KPIs in all levels of the organization. Upstream, we hope to work closely with established suppliers to forward the sustainability mindset and share our learnings so that we can have a mutually beneficial feedback loop and create impact among the greater industry.

Downstream, we’ll continue to build out resources on our site and in stores to further educate our customers and expand transparency on the true cost of all of our products, as well as providing more information on how to generally build a more sustainable lifestyle. There’s lots to be done!

Why did you come to Green Story and how does it fit into your broader sustainability strategy?

Green Story is vital to a variety of goals within our sustainability strategy. Using Green Story’s LCA service will allow us to establish a full understanding of our products’ impacts (cradle to gate). First and foremost, we want to hold ourselves accountable. Having the accredited, outside expertise of Green Story assess our current state impact gives us the confidence to begin taking action on the data and building out a plan to improve.

From a customer experience perspective, Green Story’s platform has been great in providing that full transparency of our products’ true cost in a digestible manner – right at point of purchase.

Interested to find out more about our Simplizero Ecommerce solution and how we helped QE Home quantify the carbon footprint of their products using a life cycle assessment? Book a demo with us today to get started on offsetting your products carbon emissions, and bringing your customers along your journey to net zero every step of the way.

 

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