Aurora James Tells Us Exactly What It Means When a Retailer Takes the 15 Percent Pledge

The 15 Percent Pledge was founded by Aurora James on May 29, 2020. James, who is the creative director and founder of Brother Vellies, posted about the need for businesses to invest in the future of Black communities on her feed the day after having a discussion with a friend about how Black-owned businesses are struggling in the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and also during a time when the Black community is facing racial injustice across the country. Since then, she's created a website that clearly states the three steps of the process a company must implement when taking the 15 Percent Pledge and has also included a petition that you can sign to stand with and support the pledge.

James enlisted artist Mona Chalabi to create the above graphic — which you might've seen floating around social media — that outlines how Black-owned businesses have seen major struggle since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, far more than any other racial group, and encourages big businesses to look around them and see the ways in which they can help long-term and put money and resources back into Black communities consistently. Of course, shoppers can help too. It is our responsibility as consumers to research all of the companies available to us and buy from Black-owned businesses to show our support — not just to that one brand but to the Black community as a whole.

Sephora is the first of four major retailers that were asked to join the pledge to step up and get on board. POPSUGAR talked to Aurora James, who outlined her strategy and also shed light on some of the processes you might have questions about. The first on my list: How do we hold brands, like Sephora, accountable and ensure that any plan that is published — internally and externally, for the consumer to see — is actually executed?

Read ahead to find out more, and then check out the brands that are taking "verbal" pledges via Instagram — which is really just the start of this necessary commitment.

POPSUGAR: How can you ensure that brands taking the 15 percent pledge are carrying out a plan?

Aurora James: A handful of other retailers [besides Sephora] have vocally committed to the pledge, but it's about creating attainable goals and milestones, which requires further conversations with these brands. We are currently working through how businesses can notify their customers that they are supporting the 15 Percent Pledge. Whether that comes in the form of a badge or in some other way, we'll roll that out soon.

PS: What are you asking of big businesses when you encourage them to join the pledge?

AJ: We're 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 you. We are just asking big businesses to invest in the future of the Black community — putting money and resources back into the community on an ongoing basis.

PS: How can shoppers and consumers take the 15 Percent Pledge?
AJ: People should realize that supporting Black-owned businesses helps secure financial longevity and economic equality in the long-term.

Aurora James's Original Introduction of the 15 Percent Pledge

Aurora first posted the idea for the pledge on her feed on May 29, 2020. She had come up with it the night before while speaking to a friend about the struggles Black-owned businesses are facing — especially now, during the COVID-19 crisis, when it has been stated that 40 percent of Black companies will not survive coronavirus pandemic.

Sephora's 15 Percent Pledge

Sephora is the first business to officially sign on to the pledge. Sephora will now be taking stock of the current percentage of shelf space and contracts dedicated to Black-owned businesses. The company will be taking ownership of their findings, understanding the blind spots and disparities and identifying concrete next steps. Sephora will then take action to publish and execute a plan for growing the share of Black businesses and will be sharing the plan both internally and externally, with the consumer.

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