Sephora, other retailers heed calls for change from social media campaigns

The 15 Percent Pledge and Pull Up or Shut Up are driving retail to confront its biases

After horrifying videos of police brutality triggered protests and cries for change, retailers issued the requisite statements and occasional donation. But two new movements — both with tangible results and measurable markers — are designed to drive retail into confronting its biases and ensuring that opportunity exists for everyone.

The first, called the 15 Percent Pledge, urges large retailers in the United States and Canada to devote 15 percent of shelf space to Black-owned businesses. The figure is derived from the percentage of Black people in the U.S. population.

Sephora was the first to do so, agreeing to all three phases of the pledge: It vowed to assess the percentage of current shelf space devoted to products from Black-owned businesses, take ownership of its findings and take actions to remedy that.

The brainchild of Brother Vellies, creative director Aurora James, is now seeing the 15 Percent Pledge go social. Consumers are using the hashtag to solicit similar pledges from large retailers.

Another initiative, Pull Up or Shut Up, comes from UOMA Beauty founder Sharon Chuter. Chuter calls on corporations and brands who made PR statements about supporting Black lives to disclose the number of Black employees at corporate and executive levels.

“Show us you really mean it and you are ready to stop being a part of the system of oppression and marginalization. It’s simple,” Chuter wrote on Instagram. “No jobs or support for businesses = poverty. Poverty = crime. Crime = 33% of prison population. They shoot us when they see us. Help us dismantle this system of oppression once and for all.”

In a season of mass upheaval, it can be challenging for companies to find their footings. But these two programs — simple concepts that might not be easy to enact — allow retailers the chance to assess where they are and set plans in motion to make those changes lasting.

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