Sephora is the first major retailer to pledge 15 percent of inventory to Black-owned businesses

Jamé Jackson

After Aurora James, founder of the luxury fashion brand Brother Vellies, took to Instagram and suggested that major retailers start devoting 15 percent of their shelf space to Black-owned products, the entire media industry has watched to see who will summon the call.

“So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities,” James wrote in the post. “So many of your sponsored posts are seen on Black feeds. This is the least you can do for us. We represent 15 percent of the population, and we need to represent 15 percent of your shelf space.”

Now known as the 15 Percent Pledge, the proposal has circulated throughout all industries, challenging brands to pull up and take a financial stand towards activism and corporate social responsibility.

On Wednesday, June 10, Sephora’s U.S. business announced that it would make the pledge and dedicate 15 percent of its shelf space to Black-owned companies. 

In response to the pledge to its 20 million Instagram followers, the beauty retailer also shared three actionable stages it’ll work towards. Firstly, stock of the current percentage of shelf space dedicated to Black-owned businesses will be evaluated and secondly, the brand plans to “take ownership of [its] findings, understand blind spots and disparities, and identify concrete next steps.” Lastly, the brand plans to take action and “publish and execute [its] plan for growing the share of Black businesses [it] helps empower to at least 15 percent.”

Sephora is the first major retailer to take the pledge in the wake of social media demanding that Black businesses, creators, freelancers and more be seen and respected. As hashtags detailing horror stories of what it’s like to be Black, in often white-washed media spaces, have swept the internet, major corporations have had to reflect on how systemic inequalities and toxic environments exist in their own workspaces. 

Just days prior, Uoma Beauty founder Sharon Chuter launched the #PullUpOrShutUp challenge on social media, calling out beauty brands for its lack of organizational inclusivity and challenging brands to show how many Black people work at the C-level in its companies.

“Your favorite brands are making bold PR statements about their support for the Black community,” she said in an IG post. “Please ask them how many Black employees they have in their organization (HQ and satellite offices only) and how many Black people they have in leadership roles. For the next 72 hours DO NOT purchase from any brand and demand they release these figures.”

Over 70 beauty brands have “pulled up” and dropped their numbers, which can be seen on the PullUpForChange Instagram page

As more brands are held accountable and put action behind its posts, we will continue to see who steps out to make a change from the inside out.

If you felt inspired by this story, check out 15 Black-led LGBTQ+ organizations to donate to right now.

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