Sephora pledges to dedicate 15% of shelf space to Black-owned brands

Sephora has this week announced it is taking on Aurora James’ 15% Pledge, which involes dedicating 15% of shelf space to Black-owned beauty brands.

Created by Aurora James, the creative director of the Brooklyn-based accessories brand Brother Vellies, the 15% Pledge “calls on major retailers to match the percentage of the black population and commit 15% of their shelf space or purchasing power to Black-owned businesses.”

Making it the first major retailer in the US to take the pledge, WWD reported that Sephora has committed to all three stages of the pledge, including taking stock of the current percentage of shelf space and contracts dedicated to Black-owned businesses, taking ownership of findings, blind spots and disparities, and identifying concrete next steps, while taking action to publish and execute a plan to grow the share of Black-owned businesses to at least 15%.

To get the ball rolling, Sephora will bring more “knowledge to the table freely so aspiring founders have access,” assist in connecting Black-owned brands to funding and the venture capital community, and help launch and develop Black-owned businesses. It will also utilise Accelerate, an internal incubation program that is dedicated to female founders, to focus solely on women of colour in 2021.

Sephora executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Artemis Patrick, said Sephora was inspired to take on the pledge because they believe it’s the right thing to do for clients, the industry and for the 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," Patrick added. "We recognise 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."

It is estimated that support such as this from major retailers could pump a whooping US$14.5 billion into the Black community. Since the pledge's launch, several brands have jumped on board, including Heyday, Violet Grey and Rent the Runway.

“It’s not about attacking, it’s about doing the work, it’s about saying ‘This is where we are at.’ We all have made mistakes, it’s not about posting a diversion. It’s about owning it,” James said.

“We are not asking people to do this overnight, that’s not possible. It’s going to mean that they will start looking around and taking stock of what brands and businesses are available. It’s about asking what kind of economic support they can pledge to help some of these businesses develop.”