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."
@wholefoods @target @shopmedmen @walmart @saks @sephora @netaporter @barnesandnoble @homedepot I am asking you to commit to buying 15% of your products from Black owned businesses. . 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. . Whole Foods if you were to sign on to this pledge, it could immediately drive much needed support to Black farmers. Banks will be forced to take them seriously because they will be walking in with major purchase orders from Whole Foods. Investors for the very first time will start actively seeking them out. Small businesses can turn into bigger ones. Real investment will start happening in Black businesses which will subsequently be paid forward into our Black communities. . Dont get me wrong, I understand the complexities of this request. I am a business Woman. I have sold millions of dollars of product over the years at a business I started with $3500 at a flea market. So I am telling you we can get this figured out. This is an opportunity. It is your opportunity to get in the right side of this. . So for all of the ‘what can we do to help?’ questions out there, this is my personal answer. #15PercentPledge . 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. 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.
A post shared by Aurora James 🦢 (@aurorajames) on May 29, 2020 at 5:46pm PDT
Of the group of brands James called out in her initial post, Sephora is 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.
A post shared by Sephora (@sephora) on Jun 10, 2020 at 10:02am PDT
“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.
One down, so many more to go!
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