The beauty retailer is the first major company to join the 15 Percent Pledge started by Brooklyn-based fashion designer Aurora James

By Kaitlyn Frey
June 11, 2020 01:48 PM
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Sephora

In an effort to continue the fight for racial justice, Sephora has committed to dedicate 15% of its shelf space to black-owned beauty companies.

"We recognize how important it is to represent Black businesses and communities, and we must do better. So, we’re starting now," Sephora announced on its Instagram.

To institute its plan of action, Sephora will be taking stock of the percentage of shelf space and contracts it currently dedicates to black-owned businesses. It will also be taking ownership of the findings by acknowledging its blind spots and disparities. Then, the company plans to publish and execute its plan for growing the share of black businesses it hopes to help empower and grow.

“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," Sephora's EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer Artemis Patrick said in a statement.

Patrick added: "We recognize we can do better and this pledge builds on our ongoing work to use our resources to drive meaningful and long-term change for Sephora and our industry."

Sephora will be utilizing Accelerate, its own internal incubation program dedicated to cultivating female founders, to focus on providing opportunity to women of color. The organization is also brainstorming other ways to support black-owned companies, including providing its knowledge freely to aspiring founders, connecting entrepreneurs to funders and the venture capitalist community and helping launch and develop black-owned businesses.

The concept behind the 15 Percent Pledge was started by Aurora James, the creative director and founder of artisan fashion label Brother Vellies. James urged major retailers like Sephora, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Saks and more to commit to buying 15% of their inventory from black-owned companies.

"So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. 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," James wrote on Instagram.

"I will get texts that this is crazy. I will get phone calls that this is too direct, too big of an ask, too this, too that," she continued. "But I don’t think it’s too anything, in fact I think it’s just a start. You want to be an ally? This is what I’m asking for."

James applauded Sephora for being the first company stepping up to the plate by pledging to make a change.

"What a difference a week makes. 🖤 And now today, we are thrilled to announce that, of the four businesses we named, @Sephora is the first to take the Pledge. With unparalleled influence and power, not only in the beauty industry but in retail at large, Sephora is making a historic contribution to the fight against systemic racism, economic inequality and discrimination by taking this Pledge," she said.

Sephora is also making it easy for customers to support the black community by allowing them to opt in to use their Beauty Insider reward points to make a donation towards the National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering LGBTQ+ people in the Black community.

500 points equals a $10 donation, 1,000 points equals a $20 donation, and 1,500 points equals a $30 donation, according to screenshots posted on Twitter. Additionally, Beauty Insider members with more than 1,500 points are able to convert them through multiple donations.

Additionally, the beauty retailer observed #BlackoutTuesday, an initiative that circulated across social media to go dark on June 2 to focus attention on voices who need to be heard. The company announced a $1 million donation to support various organizations dedicated to “building up Black communities” and dismantling systematic racism, including the NAACP and the National CARES Mentoring Movement.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.