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Sephora Signs Up For Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge for Black Owned Businesses

Sephora Signs Up For Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge for Black Owned Businesses

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As the wave of calls for top brands to show more support for black owned businesses continues, we’re seeing a few brands answer that call even as some remain mum. On May 30, Aurora James, Founder and Creative Director at Brother Vellies––a fashion brand with a focus on promoting artisan talents in Africa––called for a 15% pledge by big retail brands for Black owned businesses.

In an Instagram post, the designer specifically called out Sephora, Target, MedMen, Home Depot, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Saks, Net-A-Porter and Whole Foods.

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@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

Using Whole Foods as an example, she said, Whole Foods if you were to sign on to this pledge, it could immediately drive much needed support to Black farmers,” she wrote.

“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.” Black Owned Businesses

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Aurora James

Aurora made sure to mention that owning a business herself, she understands that certain technicalities may be involved in the pledge but that it was doable. A few days after the call, the pledge was registered as a Charity called 15 Percent Pledge.

According to Aurora, this was to “continue to stick around and actually hold them accountable and work with them in getting over the hiccups and the hangups that could come along the way.” 

Since the initial call out, French beauty retailer, Sephora, one of the brands mentioned in Aurora’s initial post has committed to the pledge.

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What a difference a week makes. 🖤 A little over a week ago, I wrote an Instagram post and called on four of the biggest retailers in America to commit to a #15PercentPledge. That idea quickly became a movement and and entire organization. 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. We commend their 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. 💌

A post shared by Aurora James 🦢 (@aurorajames) on

Releasing an email statement, Artemis Patrick, Sephora’s Executive Vice President and CMO had this to say, Black Owned Businesses

“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. 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.”

For the charity and Black communities all over, it is a great wish that other brands will be inspired to follow the example that Sephora has set for a long term commitment to change.

Aurora James has also committed to being a resource to some of these businesses to help them execute this pledge in a meaningful way.

“That level of accountability is exactly why a company like Target would prefer to just donate $10 million instead of actually committing to a long-term change and committing to being accountable,” says Aurora. Donations are good but a long term commitment is better not just for the short term effects but for the long term effects too, she explained.

So what happens after companies take the pledge?

Aurora James breaks her plan into three stages, detailed on 15PercentPledge.org, so retailers can address their lack of representation and do better.

  1. Take stock of the percentage of business, shelf space, and contacts given to Black-owned business and suppliers at present.
  2. Take ownership of your findings, thoroughly interrogating how existing blind spots and biases within your company and society at large have led to the disparities—and what concrete steps you can take to address them. Publish your findings internally and externally, and use them to inform a brand-new vision for “business as usual.”
  3. Take action. Define and publish a plan for growing the share of Black businesses you empower to at least 15 percent, alongside a concrete strategy by which you plan to stay accountable to and transparent around your commitment. Execute your plan. Black Owned Businesses

Some other brands not even mentioned have since committed to the pledge

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We want our actions as a business to be substantive and systematic, so we are doing the slow work to build a clear and sustained long-term strategy to fight systemic racism and make Rent the Runway, and the wider fashion industry, more diverse and anti-racist. ⁣ ⁣ Today, we are donating $100,000 to immediately support organizations combating racial injustice, including @NAACP and @blackvisionscollective. We will also be allocating an additional $1,000,000 to support Black designers through our wholesale, platform and co-manufacturing initiatives, which includes providing design resources, data, mentorship and financial support to create collections for RTR. It is critically important to us that a significant portion of our $1M goes towards launching fashion brands from Black designers who have not had the investment capital to launch on their own. ⁣ ⁣ For too long, the fashion industry has co-opted the style, inspiration and ideas of Black culture without ensuring that Black people are economically compensated for this. Therefore, we will also support @aurorajames’ #15PercentPledge. We are committing today that at least 15% of the fashion talent that we feature and support moving forward are from the Black community, inclusive of the models in our marketing, the ambassadors we use, and the styling talent, photographers, videographers and crews behind the camera. ⁣ ⁣ We know that the Black community is tired of the long-standing racism and violence. We also acknowledge the cyclical nature of society’s attention to moments of such injustice, so we vow to take systematic actions as a business that will last beyond this current moment in time. This is just the start, and we look forward to sharing further details on other plans soon. Our work has just begun.⁣

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