The 15 Percent Pledge guarantees at least 15% of shelf space will be dedicated to Black-owned brands
This spring, as anti-racism demonstrations erupted in all 50 states in the U.S., and in many cities around the world, fashion designer Aurora James, founder of popular shoe brand Brother Vellies, launched a campaign on Instagram called the 15 Percent Pledge, aimed toward amplifying Black-owned businesses and putting money back into Black communities. The premise of the campaign is simple: Since Black people make up 15% of the American population, James began calling on retail stores to pledge 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands. It quickly went viral.
“So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power,” wrote James on Instagram. “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.” Currently, the pledge’s accompanying petition has almost 85,000 signatures.
James’s first order of business was calling on major retailers like Home Depot, Walmart, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sephora and Whole Foods to join the 15 Percent Pledge. Less than two weeks later, Sephora became the first brand to sign on.
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The beauty giant officially and publicly pledged that going forward, it would allocate at least 15% of its shelf space to Black-owned brands. Sephora also wrote that it would use Accelerate, its “internal incubation program dedicated to cultivating female founders, to now focus on women of colour.”
Since then, James has called out brands like Nordstrom, which allegedly only carries less than 1% Black-owned brands, to sign the pledge, as well as Target, whose involvement would “direct over $10 billion dollars into the Black community.” James, who is based in New York but originally from Toronto, also reached out to Canadian retailers like Hudson’s Bay, Indigo, SSENSE and Holt Renfrew, to sign the 15 Percent Pledge. She revealed that as of July 1, Hudson’s Bay and Indigo had reached out to discuss signing the pledge, and she called Holt Renfrew’s and SSENSE’s silence “deafening.” None of the four Canadian brands have publicly committed to the pledge yet. According to Vogue Business, retailers Net-a-Porter and Browns are “working internally to solidify plans.”
Below are some of the other stores that have stepped up and signed Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge, ensuring that a minimum of 15 percent of the brands they carry will be Black-owned going forward. We’ll continue to update this story as the list of retailers (hopefully!) grows.
Rent The Runway
The apparel rental company signed the pledge on June 23. CEO and co-founder Jennifer Hyman was the first female founder to have her business valued at over $1 billion and since its launch, Hyman has grown Rent The Runway into one of the top five apparel purchasers in the U.S. James wrote that along with pledging to carry at least 15% Black-owned brands, “Rent The Runway has committed to doing the work internally and has also ensured that a minimum of 15% of their freelance creative talent will be Black from here on out. This includes stylists, photographers, models, influencers, etc.”
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Last week, West Elm became the first retailer in the home goods category to sign the 15 Percent Pledge. “In addition to their 15% benchmark commitment, the brand will be making a multi-year donation pledge to the 15 Percent Pledge Foundation,” wrote James. You can read the brand’s full statement here, which outlines the brand’s plan and commitment strategy, including a promise to “increase the share of Black employees within West Elm’s corporate workforce to a minimum of 15%, as well as strengthening the retail to corporate pipeline.”
Beauty retailer Violet Grey signed the 15 Percent Pledge one week after its launch, and also committed to “stocking all colour complexion shades from our current brand partners and will focus on securing wider makeup shade ranges going forward.” Love! To! See! It!
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Undoubtedly and unequivocally, Black Lives Matter. We are outraged and heartbroken by the murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and far too many more going back far too many years. We stand in solidarity with the fight against the centuries of white supremacy, institutional racism, and systemic oppression of the Black community. However, we know that this Instagram post alone does not make for tangible action, and there is so much work to be done. As a team, we pledge to continuously examine, challenge, and expand the ways in which we use our platform to create positive change in our communities and in the skincare industry as a whole. Specifically, within our industry, we are inspired by @aurorajames’ #15PercentPledge. We are committed to (1) working towards stocking at least 15% of our shelves with Black-owned brands and (2) launching a program that donates both funding and consulting to Black entrepreneurs in the skincare industry who would benefit from additional resources. We have to start somewhere. More details to come by July. We must make an individual and collective commitment to be actively anti-racist on a daily basis. If you feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start, we’re collecting a number of resources for action and education in our Stories which will be stored under “Resources” in our Highlights. We are also here to learn and to listen. How are you feeling? Who are you learning from right now? What are your ideas? Let us know. ⬇️
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Heyday Skincare, the popular NYC salon that puts an emphasis on personalized skincare regimens and products, signed the 15 Percent Pledge, committing to not only stocking their shelves with at least 15% Black-owned brands, but also “launching a program that donates both funding and consulting to Black entrepreneurs in the skincare industry who would benefit from additional resources,” according to an Instagram post by the brand.
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Please visit our journal for the details of each Action and a more legible version of the posted text ❤️ Firstly we’d like to thank all of you for participating in last week’s fundraising. We are so proud that you’ve raised over $40K for organizations both in the United States and here in Montreal. But now, we want to talk about what’s next ⭐️ There’s a lot of talk about taking time to listen and learn and we’d like to be transparent about what we’ve been talking about during this time. While we may be a very small business, that doesn’t mean we can’t take action in big ways. From the beginning, Nox has always aimed to be an inclusive space: we are pro-queer, pro-Black, and pro-sex work and trauma-informed. As a natural extension of our politics and support of these groups, we are anti-police, we believe in defunding the police and deeply support the right to protest for these aims. This also means, as a white-owned business, that we are aware that we need to be constantly working to learn, to lend our support, and acknowledge our privilege. Our learning includes acknowledging the mistakes we’ve made and the ways we must improve. ❤️ Action 1: Donating 10% of Monthly Sales (starting immediately and in perpetuity) 💸 Action 2: A $5K Annual Grant 💰 Action 3: Taking The @15percentpledge at @nox_lounge 🛒 Action 4: Hiring More Marginalized Voices for Freelance 💻 Please find more details on the Journal ❤️ xo Team Nox
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Nox Shop, a Montreal-based luxury sex toy boutique, has recently signed the 15 Percent Pledge, committing to not only stocking a minimum of 15% Black-owned brands, but also donating 10% of their monthly sales going forward, starting immediately. If smaller brands like this can do it, we need to expect more from the giant retailers.
Retailer ban.do signed the 15 Percent Pledge on June 5, pledging that “at least 15% of incoming third party products sold on bando.com will be purchased from Black-owned brands and celebrated within our marketing.” The company’s commitment came amidst accusations of racism and dicrimination in the workplace, and days later founder Jen Gotch stepped down.
Who What Wear
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Who What Wear stands with and supports the Black community. We stand definitively against police brutality, racism, and injustice in all forms. . We are listening, learning, and working on how we can be better partners to the Black community. . In the past week, you may have noticed we have shifted our content to provide greater resources for donations, petitions, and education around anti-racism. While it is important to us that we use our platform to share these materials—and we will continue to do so—it is also critically important that we do the work internally, too. . In that spirit, we’re sharing with you here our immediate and long-term action items as a company. These efforts will be ongoing and evolving, and we promise to be transparent about the process and results. Here’s what we are doing: — TODAY: We are committing to the Fifteen Percent Pledge (@15percentpledge) and dedicating at least 15% of our monthly editorial and social content to featuring and highlighting Black brands, designers, companies, creatives, talent, artists, and entrepreneurs as an ongoing effort to create and promote more diverse and inclusive content. We want to use our platform to amplify Black voices and brands to drive meaningful business. We will be transparent about how the process is going and will share our progress with you. This will be an ongoing initiative. . THIS WEEK: Our company donated $25,000 to @blklivesmatter on Tuesday and will be matching 100% of all employee charitable donations to organizations that fight racial injustice and inequality. This includes any donations that have already been made, and we plan to continue this matching program each year moving forward. . We have also determined that the first Wednesday in each June will be a company-wide Anti-Racism Day. Yesterday, we were closed for business and encouraged everyone to use this day off to support an organization they believe in, educate themselves, talk with family and friends about racism, or simply take a pause to focus on their mental health. It is a day of solidarity to remember and take action for those who have lost their lives due to racist acts of violence. [Continued in comments.]
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On June 4, Who What Wear signed the pledge, promising that the company will be “dedicating at least 15% of our monthly editorial and social content to featuring and highlighting Black brands, designers, companies, creatives, talent, artists, and entrepreneurs as an ongoing effort to create and promote more diverse and inclusive content. We want to use our platform to amplify Black voices and brands to drive meaningful business. We will be transparent about how the process is going and will share our progress with you. This will be an ongoing initiative.”
The luxury personal shopping company announced on June 6 that it had signed Aurora James’s 15 Percent Pledge, committing to allocating at least 15% of its virtual shelf space to Black-owned brands and designers, and called on “the rest of the industry” to join them.
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The Goods Mart
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We Take @aurorajames @15percentpledge ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The Goods Mart values community and people above all else. Our core value is to do as much good as possible, and our mission is to make better-for-you foods more accessible and to elevate those who make a positive impact on our food system. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ But I realized we are missing one vital component to our mission: Celebrating the incredible makers of all colors and backgrounds in addition to the products they make. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ On June 1st, we stocked three Black owned brands in our store. Today, we carry 17 with our minimum goal to showcase 30 Black founded brands out of the 200 brands that fill our store. We want our consumers to shop their values, which means we must lead by example. We will do better at actively researching and looking for emerging brands that we know you will love. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ From now and into the future, we will get to know all brands that come into the store on a deeper level. We pledge to elevate founders and their stories just as much as the products. We want to celebrate BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and female founders. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ If we don’t ask founders to share their stories, how can we help to elevate the brands and voices that need to be heard! ⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Additionally, we have created a Black Founded Goods Box – so our customers near and far can fall in love with these products as much as we have. We have also added a Donation Snack Box to the @blackwomensblueprint, giving healthy food to their Sistas Van for women & children in need. Plus 5% of all sales will go to @hotbreadkitchen to continue to fuel food innovation for the BIPOC community. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We will also be sharing our Black Founders’ stories on our social media to give you a chance to get to know the brilliant creators behind the delicious products. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We’re so excited for you to learn about these amazing brands, meet the founders and more importantly, BUY, TRY & SUPPORT THEM!!!! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ @57chocolate @avecdrinks @brooklyngranolanyc @cornbread_26 @eugeniashea @golde @eatgwell @hey.homebody @thehoneypotco @just @lanihalliday @mumgry @partakefoods @pipsnacks @eatpowerbites @shaquandawillfeedyou @yolelefo
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New York-based The Goods Mart, an elevated “convenience store,” signed the 15 Percent Pledge in July, writing, “on June 1st, we stocked three Black-owned brands in our store. Today, we carry 17 with our minimum goal to showcase 30 Black founded brands out of the 200 brands that fill our store. We want our consumers to shop their values, which means we must lead by example. We will do better at actively researching and looking for emerging brands that we know you will love.”
While this is certainly an inspiring start, we can’t wait to see the list of brands and retailers signing the 15 Percent Pledge grow. It’s especially promising that massive retailers like Sephora and West Elm, who not only have the funds but the visibility to make a significant (albeit long overdue) difference in their industries when it comes to supporting Black-owned businesses. Like Aurora James has said, “15% is the least you can do.”