15 Percent Pledge Is Encouraging Companies To Support Black Businesses

Just as I am constantly looking to be sustainable, I’m also looking to support marginalized groups. So, when I stumbled upon 15 Percent Pledge, I was intrigued. 15%? For what? Why are so many companies pledging to this organization?

Turns out, it’s for an amazing cause, rooted in changing the consumer’s experience and retailers’ contributions to Black business owners. This is how 15 Percent Pledge is making changes in the retail industry.


What Is The 15 Percent Pledge?

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15 Percent Pledge is a nonprofit organization dedicated to boosting awareness of Black-owned businesses. They offer consulting services and accountability support to major retailers, guiding companies through appropriate embracement of the Black community’s contributions and, as their name indicates, pledging to stock their stores with at least 15% of products from Black business owners. 

“Black people represent 15% of the population, and so stores like Target should make sure they’re hitting 15% of Black-owned businesses on their shelves,” founder Aurora James explained. “It’s kind of the bare minimum.”

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The idea of 15 Percent Pledge came from corporations reaching out to James for advice on how to handle movements such as Black Lives Matter. In an interview with Vogue, she explained that the retailers would reach out, saying “‘Hey, girl, how do you think we should handle this?’.… That kind of call-your-Black-friend energy.” Inspired by the injustice and lack of diversity in the United States, she decided to run with the idea of empowering Black business owners in major retailers. She also drew inspiration from her company Brother Vellies, whose mission includes fairly compensating Black artisans and honoring African design practices – no sales or discounts offered.

What Are The “Three Steps” Companies Can Take?

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If you think about it, the mission of 15 Percent Pledge isn’t hard to meet. Stocking 15% of shelves with Black-owned businesses’ products is just what James said: the bare minimum. But it’s a place to start. “I’m not out here telling fashion retailers that they need to do this tomorrow – I’m saying there are three particular steps they can take.” 

The first step for companies: take stock and report the amount of Black-owned businesses’ products that are on their shelves at that current moment. Step two: look at their company introspectively to identify blind spots and biases. Once they’ve outlined these issues, come up with a plan to step out of their current comfort zone and increase diversity. Remain accountable for these findings by posting them internally and externally. And finally: put together a plan to enact change and dedicate at least 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses’ products – and hold themselves accountable throughout the process.

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These steps aren’t radical, James emphasizes. When you read them on the nonprofit’s website, they’re pretty simplistic.

How To Support 15 Percent Pledge As A Consumer

If you’re a consumer, there are still many ways to support 15 Percent Pledge’s mission. Take a look at your bank statement: what are you spending your money on, and how many of these payments go toward Black business owners? The answer may surprise you. By analyzing your spending, you can take accountability and pledge to take 15% of that money and spend it on Black-owned businesses’ products instead. Do your research to find Black-owned stores that sell what you tend to buy, then plan to set aside the 15% which you would normally spend at your regular coffee shop or thrift store.

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Another way you can support 15 Percent Pledge is by donating $15 to their cause. It doesn’t sound like much, but with this movement’s increasing visibility and receiving donations, that $15 can make a big difference. The money goes toward advocacy to hold larger corporations accountable and make changes within their companies.

The Future of 15 Percent Pledge 

As the nonprofit gains momentum, James has no intention of slowing down. Many companies have made the pledge, including Vogue, west elm, Ulta, and J. Crew. And, as of July 8th, Nordstrom has announced that they have signed a 10-year agreement with the nonprofit. Pete Nordstrom, chief brand officer and president of Nordstrom, said in a statement on Instagram that “Over the next 10 years Nordstrom will grow purchases from brands owned or founded by Black individuals by 10x by the end of 2030.”

It’s a bold statement, one James is proud of. “We applaud Nordstrom for the work they’re doing to create financial opportunities for the Black community.” And James wants to reiterate: she knows that this change won’t happen overnight. But retailers can still begin taking these steps. 

“This isn’t about cancel culture,” she says. “It’s about holding each other accountable.”


 Which retailers would you like to see take the pledge? Are you going to take it? Let us know in the comments.

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