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Sephora pledges to devote at least 15% of shelf space to black-owned beauty brands

Sephora is the first major retailer to take the Fifteen Percent Pledge.
/ Source: TODAY

Sephora is the first major retailer to take the Fifteen Percent Pledge, which asks large retailers to give at least that much shelf space to black-owned brands.

The grassroots movement was started earlier this month by Aurora James, founder of the sustainable fashion brand Brother Vellies. Sephora was one of the major retailers called out by the pledge and was the first to publicly commit.

"We were inspired to make the Fifteen Percent Pledge because we believe it’s the right thing to do, for our clients, our industry and for our community," Artemis Patrick, chief merchandising officer at Sephora said in a statement.

"Ultimately, this commitment is about more than the prestige products on our shelves, 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," Patrick said. "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."

Sephora will start by auditing its shelf space to determine how much it currently devotes to black-owned brands. The company will then identify its blind spots and publish a plan of action to help them meet the 15% benchmark.

One way to do that will be to focus Accelerate, its internal incubator. While Accelerate focuses on cultivating female founders, the program will have an emphasis on helping black female founders.

James told TODAY Style last week that she started the movement to make sure black people, who account for 15% of the population, are represented in the large retailers where they're an important part of the customer base.

"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 said. "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."

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," she said. "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."