We (and by we I mean Byrdie, as well as the beauty industry at large) have been doing a lot talking over the last few weeks. The attention has been on the recent acts of hate against the Black community—from George Floyd to Breonna Taylor to the many, many other Black people who have been persecuted and killed for the color of their skin. But the issue goes so much deeper than the police brutality of recent months. The beauty space (and most other spaces, by the way) is set up in such a way that companies owned and run by BIPOC can't gain the same access to publicity and promotion as their white counterparts. With that in mind, designer Aurora James of Brother Vellies came up with the 15% Pledge—a call to all major retailers to pledge at least 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. And Sephora was the first to step up.
“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," says Artemis Patrick, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer of Sephora. Patrick adds, "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."
There is no quick fix for the systemic racism that flows through our industry, but Sephora has wide-spread influence and certainly has money to spend. Now, its putting that money and influence to better use. Today, 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 all findings, understanding blind spots and disparities, and identifying concrete next steps
- Taking action to publish and execute a plan for growing the share of Black businesses Sephora helps empower to at least 15%
While we wait for that concrete plan to be put into place, Sephora says its looking at all areas of the business to determine how best to provide broad support to Black-owned companies. The company pledges to do the following:
- Bring all of its knowledge to the table freely, so aspiring founders have access
- Provide connections to and support from funders and the venture capitalist community
- Help launch and develop Black-owned businesses with support for long-term success
- Use Accelerate, the brand's internal incubation program dedicated to cultivating female founders, to now focus on women of color.
This is the very first step, but a good one. We will continue to monitor announcements from Sephora and update you with its progress. Talking is good, but action is better. Hopefully there will be more. Here's to the beauty industry moving forward in a more inclusive, actively diverse way.