Sephora Canada and Hudson’s Bay make Fifteen Percent Pledge

The retailers commit to reserving more space for BIPOC-owned businesses as a step towards making the industry more equitable.
Hudson's Bay

A year after it was first launched, new Canadian companies have joined the Fifteen Percent Pledge, embracing the need to reserve more shelf space for BIPOC-owned businesses and brands in an effort to break down systemic barriers and help create more equitable industries and profit structures.

The Fifteen Percent Pledge is a non-profit organization based in the United States that advocates for the equitable and intentional distribution of wealth and opportunity for people in the workforce. Its call to have U.S. companies commit at least 15% of their shelf-space to Black-owned businesses aligns with the makeup of the U.S. population.

In Canada, the pledge has been extended to Indigenous people and visible minorities, who account for roughly 5% and 22% of the population, respectively. Black Canadians account for 3.5% of the overall population. Nevertheless, the organization has called on Canadian brands to apply the same 15% pledge as in the U.S.

Earlier this year, J. Crew, KITH, Next Model Management and Moda Operandi joined the pledge, adding to a group that already included Indigo, Gap, Crate&Barrel, Macy’s, Sephora U.S., Rent the Runway, West Elm and Yelp.

Now Hudson’s Bay and Sephora Canada have done the same.

Last week, the country’s oldest retailer – and the first Canadian department store to join the pledge – committed to having at least 15% of all new brands purchased for its online and bricks-and-mortar stores be BIPOC-owned or designed, starting with the Fall 2021 season. It will also work to ensure a minimum of 15% of the design talent for owned brands are BIPOC.

Meanwhile, Sephora Canada announced this week that it will dedicate 25% of its offering to BIPOC-owned brands by 2026. Sephora U.S. became the first major retailer to sign on in June 2020, a move that came with evolving its 2021 Accelerate incubator programming to be dedicated exclusively to people of colour.

Sephora Canada says the five-year goal of 25% – which exceeds the 15% benchmark Sephora is striving for in the U.S. – aligns with the percentage of Canadians who identified as visible minorities on the 2016 census.

Currently, 12% of Sephora Canada’s prestige beauty brands are BIPOC-owned, a number it hopes to increase to 15% come 2022. Part of its plan includes helping BIPOC brands achieve Canadian regulatory compliance, “which has already played a crucial role in enabling expansion into Canada,” according to the company.

“Ensuring greater representation within our prestige beauty brand offering that is reflective of Canada’s rich diversity is central to our mission of creating a more inclusive retail experience and sense of belonging for all,” said Jane Nugent, Sephora Canada’s SVP of merchandising, in a release.

“In the beauty space, consumers are looking for brand founders and stories that resonate with them,” Nugent added in an email to strategy. “While this isn’t necessarily a recent trend, we expect it is something that will continue to be of increasing importance to our clients and that is why our goal is to ensure that all of our clients see themselves reflected at Sephora Canada.”

To help give visibility to the brands it carries, Sephora has launched a dedicated BIPOC-owned Beauty Guide, which it will support with ongoing marketing efforts across digital channels throughout the year.

Outside of taking the pledge, Hudson’s Bay and Sephora have taken other steps to begin making the industry a more equitable place. Sephora Canada, for example, has established a Diversity and Inclusion Council whose mandate is to identify “actionable solutions and galvanize change.”

Hudson’s Bay has also put new structures in place, including a DEI Council, DEI merchant group and marketing DEI committee, and hired its first divisional VP of DEI. Earlier this month, it also unveiled a new “Charter for Change” social impact platform that will see it invest $30 million over 10 years to organisations working to advance racial equity and inclusion in the areas of education, employment and empowerment.

Other changes at Hudson’s Bay include the creation of four employee resource groups and a phased, education program that is being rolled out starting this month, with the goal of getting every employee to participate in Indigenous cultural awareness training by the end of the year.

Photo courtesy of Can Pac Swire via Unsplash.