As protests in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many other Black humans who died at the hands of police hold a mirror up to society's long history of racial injustice, Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies, in turn held up a mirror to major retailers across industries. James launched the 15 Percent Pledge to ask behemoths such as Target, Whole Foods, Net-a-Porter, Sephora, and Saks Fifth Ave to reflect on how they can turn their swift Instagram messages of solidarity into a more tangible, long-term support for Black businesses.
The 15 Percent Pledge is broken down into three proposals:
- Take Stock: Examine your current inventory and contracts dedicated to Black-owned businesses, as well as the representation at your company.
- Take Ownership: Now that you've reviewed your company, share your findings within the company and publicly to foster transparency.
- Take Action: With everything you've learned, map out a new strategy to address your company's shortcomings and how you'll commit to dedicating 15 percent of your shelf space to Black businesses.
In a recent Instagram post, James explained that Black dollars fuel these huge corporations. "So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power," she wrote. "So many of your stores are set up in Black communities. So many of your sponsored posts are seen on Black feeds. This is the least you can do for us. We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space."
Today, West Elm joined forced with the 15 Percent Pledge. "West Elm will be the first retailer in the home-goods category to do so and their participation shows impressive leadership in the global design space," read the Instagram announcement. On top of joining the program, West Elm has made a multi-year donation to the 15 Percent Pledge Foundation. You can read more about West Elm's commitment to Black businesses on West Elm.com.
Rent the Runway took the pledge as a commitment to Black designers. "In addition to stocking their shelves, RTR has committed to doing the work internally and has also ensured that a minimum of 15% of their freelance creative talent will be Black from here on out," read the caption on 15PercentPledge's Instagram page. "Their pledge will drive necessary dollars back into the Black community and is a crucial first step on the road to Black economic empowerment."
Of the group of brands James called out in her initial post, Sephora was the first to step up to the challenge. "We recognize how important it is to represent Black businesses and communities, and we must do better. So, we’re starting now," the beauty giant wrote on Wednesday, June 10.
“We were inspired to make the 15% Pledge because we believe it’s the right thing to do, for our clients, our industry and for our community. Ultimately, this commitment is about more than the prestige products on our shelves, it starts with a long-term plan diversifying our supply chain and building a system that creates a better platform for Black-owned brands to grow, while ensuring Black voices help shape our industry," Artemis Patrick, EVP and chief merchandising officer of Sephora, said in a statement.
Sephora added that they will utilize their internal program Accelerate—dedicated to supporting female founders—to highlight businesses owned by women of color.
Three down, so many more to go!
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