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What Does the 15 Percent Pledge Look Like in Practice? Sephora's Trying to Show and Prove

The beauty juggernaut has already increased its total Black-owned brand offerings to 15 percent, with a plan to reach 15 percent in haircare alone this year.

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By this point, anyone interested in equity in retail should be familiar with the 15 Percent Pledge, the initiative launched by Brothers Vellies founder Aurora James in June 2020, in response to both calls for racial justice and equity and the largely performative promises of the beauty and fashion industries. Calling out one of the most basic metrics of equity, Vellies challenged retailers to make their stores more accurately reflect the demographics America, by delegating a minimum of 15 percent of their offerings to Black-owned brands.

Beauty emporium Sephora was the first of a still-growing number of retailers to sign on to the pledge, which it added to its ongoing efforts to combat racial bias in its stores and corporate structure. Part of that effort included commissioning the Racial Bias in Retail Study, the result of which were published this January. Now, a more recent report measures how far the retailer has come in the DE&I Action Plan it shared in that study—and gives us an idea of what 15 percent might actually look like in practice.

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Screenshot: Sephora
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Per a press release shared with The Glow Up: “Supported by its 11 internal task forces, this work is focused on tackling bias across all areas of the organization including marketing, merchandising, education, hiring, recruiting, operations and the in-store experience. With this work, the prestige retailer set out to make the Sephora experience more inclusive and equitable, for team members, clients, and the broader beauty community.”

Sephora also provided highlights from the report:

  • At the time of the 15 Percent Pledge in June 2020, Sephora carried eight Black-owned brands. By the end of 2021, Sephora will more than double their assortment overall, including achieving the 15% benchmark in prestige haircare.

  • Within the Action Plan share-out in January, Sephora pledged to establish new guidelines to ensure its campaigns, social media and marketing content included a diverse array of backgrounds, identities, ages, and body types.

  • Black-owned brands now comprise 15% of Sephora’s total social and digital content, up from 11% in June 2020. In addition, in 2021 Sephora implemented dedicated quarterly campaigns to drive awareness of Black-owned brands including a Sephora.com landing page.

  • To broaden inclusion for Sephora’s LatinX clients, the retailer has doubled the number of Spanish-language YouTube videos produced each month and have incorporated closed-captioning on all Sephora-produced IGTVs, to improve the accessibility of their content.

  • Since June of last year, Sephora has grown Black or African American leadership across stores, distribution centers and corporate offices from 6% to 9%. Black or African American Store Director representation increased from 6 to 11%.

  • 64% of Sephora’s total workforce is comprised of People of Color, with 16% Black or African American.
  • Sephora created 20 new inclusivity training modules required to be taken by all Sephora retail employees, including a series which trains all Sephora employees to recognize and mitigate their unconscious biases.
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Image for article titled What Does the 15 Percent Pledge Look Like in Practice? Sephora's Trying to Show and Prove
Screenshot: Sephora

Shopping at Sephora this July, beauty and haircare aficionados will find the retailer’s expanded offering now includes Black-owned brands Adwoa Beauty, Bread Beauty Supply, Briogeo, Danessa Myricks Beauty, Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin by Rihanna, Jackie Aina’s FORVR Mood, Grace Eleyae, KNC Beauty, LYS Beauty, Pat McGrath Labs, Rose Ingleton, MD, Shani Darden Skin Care, Sunday II Sunday, Topicals and Qhemet Biologics. This fall will see the launch of several more Black-owned brands in store and online, including but not limited to Fashion Fair and Hyper Skin.

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You can read Sephora’s entire report here.