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The US-based 15 Percent Pledge, urging retailers to ensure that 15% of the products they offer are from black-owned businesses, launched this month. Aurora James, founder of luxury fashion line Brother Vellies, created the movement; in her words, “We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.” The goal is to help black-owned small businesses grow, and it’s estimated that widespread implementation of the pledge could raise USD 14.5 billion for black communities. James directly addressed nine major retailers on social – including Sephora, Whole Foods, The Home Depot, Net-a-Porter and Target – and implored them to participate, as these companies frequently market to black consumers and depend on black spending power.
If you’re planning to post a black square on social (more on performative wokeness here), take a moment. Review some facts first: Black households earn less than 60% of white ones. The median net worth for white families is 10 times that of black families. Unemployment rates due to COVID-19 are at least 2 percentage points higher for black Americans.
So rather than stand in solidarity, MOVE in solidarity. The 15 Percent Pledge makes it exceedingly clear how brands can do just that: Close these striking financial gaps and get money into the pockets of black citizens. Take it from a black business owner like Aurora James, who understands acutely what black businesses need. And just to quickly acknowledge: There are plenty of outlets publishing lists of black-owned brands out there (in fashion, in food, in wellness and countless other categories), encouraging consumers to use their dollars to offer support. Which is great!
However, if you represent a corporate giant, you have far more power than a single consumer. The 15 Percent Pledge underlined the billions that just nine retailers, together, could funnel towards black communities. Now, maybe you don’t run a retail business. Maybe you don’t have shelf space to give. But consumers are still expecting you to answer this question: What does tangible support look like in my industry?
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