Sephora Is The First Major Retailer To Take On The 15% Pledge

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
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Despite the plethora of products from Black-owned businesses, these items have routinely been ignored on a larger scale, like at major retailers (online and brick-and-mortar). As we all commit to amplifying Black creatives, Aurora James (founder of Brother Vellies, a luxury accessories line handcrafted from global artisans) posed an initiative on Instagram: What if major retailers started stocking a number of Black-owned brands on their shelves? She followed the idea by spearheading the 15 Percent Pledge, a nonprofit organization that calls upon said retailers to dedicate 15% of their inventory to Black-owned businesses. "We represent 15% of the population, and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space," she shares

And today (a week since the nonprofit's inception), Sephora has announced they will take on the 15 Percent Pledge—the first of the four industry giants James has urged to take action. 

Here are the details. 

Sephora has promised to uphold all three stages of the pledge, per their Instagram announcement: Take stock of their current shelf space and contracts dedicated to Black-owned businesses; take ownership of their findings and disparities, and identify concrete next steps; and take action to publish and execute a plan for growing the share of Black-owned businesses to at least 15%. "We must do better. So, we're starting now," the brand shares in the caption.

The company also plans to restructure their internal incubation program dedicated to cultivating female founders (called Accelerate) to focus on women of color. The Accelerate program currently includes one-on-one mentorship opportunities from seasoned beauty entrepreneurs, as well as cultivates conversations with industry experts, investors, and senior level Sephora leaders—initiatives that will now focus those opportunities on Black creatives.

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Hope for long-lasting change.

Sephora currently works with 290 brands in the United States and, up until now, has sold only seven Black-owned brands. With this new pledge, the company will now offer at least 44—more than triple what they've previously had on market shelves. And that exposure will do so much more for Black-owned brands than support their revenue: "Real investment will start happening in Black businesses, which will subsequently be paid forward into our Black communities," James writes in her Instagram post. Meaning, the Black voices and creatives will finally receive their proper due—a long-lasting change that stems beyond a one-time donation to the cause. 

It's something Kristian Henderson, DrPH, professor of public health at George Washington University, a natural lifestyle enthusiast, and the founder of BLK+GRN, believes in as well. She tells mbg in a Q&A: "Every time I spend money, I'm deciding what I invest in...I also see that investment beyond the product I'm purchasing. Not only do you get the product, but you're investing in someone else's dreams." 

In terms of Sephora committing to the cause, it's quite the influential industry giant to kick off the initiative, and the 15 Percent Pledge team is optimistic about getting other retailers on board. "We commend [Sephora's] early leadership and look forward to working with them on their accountability and commitment as we join together in the mission to put billions back into the Black community," the organization shares on Instagram.

We certainly have much more to do to end systemic racism, but buying Black is a great way to keep the momentum strong.

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