Since George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought attention to racial injustice in our society and transformed our view on taking accountability. This includes taking accountability for the lack of representation of Black-owned businesses and staff in many companies.
Aurora James, founder of sustainable fashion brand Brother Vellies in Brooklyn, created the 15 Percent Pledge for businesses to devote 15% of their shelf space to Black business owners. The pledge website specifically calls on Sephora, Target, Whole Foods and retailer Shopbop to take on the pledge and actively make a change.
The pledge is not only meant to represent the 15% of the Black population in America that purchase from these companies every day, but also to create a platform for Black-owned brands and ensure that their voices are heard in the industry that have been previously silenced by big name corporations.
The three stages of the pledge include determining the current percentage of shelf space and contacts dedicated to black-owned businesses, identifying ways to increase that number, and by publishing and publicly executing a plan to reach the 15%.
Vogue was one of the businesses that promised change, as it recently announced in its September issue that it was taking the 15 Percent Pledge, promising to increase the number of Black freelance photographers, writers and other creative staff. Other companies that have also taken the pledge include Sephora, West Elm, Yelp, Rent the Runway and MedMen.
Other brands like Target and Whole Foods have also both announced that they will donate $10 million to organizations such as the National Urban League in support of Black businesses and communities. However, they never announced taking on the pledge nor outlined a plan to increase shelf space for Black-owned businesses.
While donating money to the cause helps those organizations, it does not help the actual problem. These organizations do help the businesses that are suffering, especially during the era of COVID, but only companies with the status of Target and Whole Foods can create real change in local communities.
"Whole Foods: if you were to sign on to this pledge, it could immediately drive support to Black farmers. Small businesses can turn into bigger ones. Real investment will start happening in Black businesses which will subsequently be paid forward into our Black communities,” James explained in an Instagram post.
The more large companies sign onto the pledge, the more it calls attention to the problem and supports these business owners. Companies like Target and Whole Foods need to publicly release records of their shelf space in hopes that it will force other companies to do the same, causing a rippling change in big corporations.
Not only do larger companies need to take on the pledge in order to actively transform their ways, but consumers can also take on the pledge and shift their spending habits. There are three ways customers can take the consumer commitment pledge: taking inventory of their shopping and spending habits, shifting at least 15% of their monthly spending to Black-owned businesses and donating $15 monthly to the pledge website.
It is just as important for consumers to take on the pledge as it is for companies. This is because as companies shift their businesses to dedicate their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses, consumers must purchase them for these businesses to sustain and continue getting purchase orders. Without a need from customers, these bigger companies will argue that these products are not being purchased and they will eventually be dropped.
We can no longer pretend there is not a problem. Donating money and posting a black square is not enough anymore. Both large corporations like Target and Whole Foods and everyday consumers must take on the 15 Percent Pledge in order to stop silencing these Black voices and take accountability for doing so. Otherwise, we might as well not post that black square to begin with.
Hannah Campbell is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hannah by tweeting her at @hannahcmpbell.