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On June 10, Sephora’s U.S. business announced that it would dedicate 15 percent of its shelf space to Black-owned companies. The announcement was all thanks to the founder of the 15 Percent Pledge and creative director of Brother Vellies, Aurora James.
Now, James and the team behind the 15 Percent Pledge, an organization that asks retailers to dedicate 15 per cent of their inventory to Black-owned businesses, are calling on Canada’s largest merchants for their support.
The goal is to encourage retailers to front brand selections that are more representative of the country’s beautifully diverse population, 23 per cent of which identifies as BIPOC. Hudson’s Bay and Indigo are currently in talks with the Toronto native and her non-profit about committing to the pledge, while Holt Renfrew and SSENSE are being called out for their “deafening silence” on the matter.
James recently spoke to Yahoo Finance about the excitement over Sephora being the first major retailer to sign the 15 Percent Pledge after five days of pressure on social media from herself and her supporters. The organization is said to be working closely with Sephora over the next couple of years to make sure the company is held accountable for their pledge as well.
In conversation with Yahoo, the designer stressed the importance of consistently propping up businesses beyond writing purchase orders and taking brands on, as the 15 Percent Pledge seeks to reassure Black-owned brands that they’re going to be supported by retailers in a truly meaningful way.
Her inspiration? James told Yahoo that after the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets in response to George Floyd’s death, she received messages from allies who reached out to say that they stand with her through these highly turbulent times, but didn’t really “feel” their support.
That’s when she sought out to attach a quantitive value and number to what support might look like from big retailers to Black business owners. And you guessed it - that number (a.k.a amount of shelf space), based on the population of the U.S., is 15 per cent.
“I’m not asking these businesses to do it overnight, James said. “I’m asking them to build out a clear strategy with benchmarks that they can hit along the way.”
If every one of the four businesses James initially addressed over social media (Shopbop, Target, Sephora, and Whole Foods) committed to the 15 Percent Pledge, she estimated that $15 billion dollars could be filtered back into the Black community.
While Sephora is the only retailer to take the pledge so far, James’s mission has expanded to include a focus on bringing equal distribution of wealth and opportunity to Canada’s BIPOC too.
Plus, check out 20 more Black-owned shoe brands, here.