The 15% pledge aims to get big stores to stock more black-owned businesses

"If they value our money, then value us as well and show us that we are represented," said Aurora James.
/ Source: TODAY

Black people account for 15% of the population in the United States, but black-owned businesses aren't getting that shelf space at major retailers. The Fifteen Percent Pledge is aiming to change that.

Aurora James, founder of the sustainable fashion brand Brother Vellies, started the grassroots movement to ask large retailers, including Target, Sephora, Amazon's Whole Foods and Shopbop, to take the pledge.

"We have seen an incredibly positive response from supporters all over the country but we're just getting started on conversations with the bigger businesses to ask them to sign and make this a reality," James told TODAY Style in an email. "We are also hearing from a lot of consumers who are willing to make the pledge in their own lives in how they spend their money."

Rent the Runway has already stepped up to take the pledge. The company said earlier this week that it will make sure at least 15% of the fashion talent it features includes a black designer.

“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,” the company wrote on Instagram.

The first step of the pledge asks companies to complete an audit to determine how much shelf space they currently give black-owned businesses.

"What we are asking is not that tough and we are here to help these retailers attain that 15% with clear and attainable goals," James said.

After that, she wants companies to "accept where they are at, own it and figure out how they got there." Then, they need to commit to achieving a minimum of 15% and set a deadline to hold themselves accountable.

"It could take a few years, but we are here to help lay out that plan and strategy," James said.

The Fifteen Percent Pledge will encourage retailers to seek out and invest in worthy companies that have otherwise been ignored, James said.

"I'm not asking these companies to invest in a business just because it's black-owned. Of course, continue to do research and evaluate what black-owned businesses work for them, we are just asking big business to invest in the future of the black community," she said. "Many of our people choose to spend their money with these businesses, their stores are set up in our communities, and their sponsored posts are targeted to us. If they value our money, then value us as well and show us that we are represented."