Nordstrom is the first retailer to sign a 10-year agreement with the 15 Percent Pledge, founded a year ago to address racial inequities in retail. The department store committed to a tenfold increase in purchases from and partnerships with Black-owned or -founded brands by the end of 2030, according to an emailed press release from the nonprofit.
In a survey released Wednesday, the group said participating retailers have at least doubled their assortments from Black-owned businesses within six months of taking the Pledge; that companies' marketing and editorial reforms have boosted brand awareness for Black entrepreneurs by 20 percentage points; and that those addressing hiring have, on average, doubled their percentage of Black employees at director level or higher.
The 15 Percent Pledge said that so far it has generated nearly $10 billion in revenue for Black-owned businesses across several sectors including beauty, fashion, retail and media. Ultimately, the group aims to create $1 trillion in economic impact for Black-owned businesses.
The 15 Percent Pledge has achieved a lot in a year.
The group was started by Brother Vellies Founder and Creative Director Aurora James in order to challenge brands to follow through on their expressions of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, after the murder of George Floyd last year at the hands of police.
That has quickly evolved from a social media plea to a platform that finds more and more ways to make it easier for retailers and brands to take concrete steps to address racial bias and inequities throughout their operations. For example, Nordstrom is working with the group to tailor a strategy. "Nordstrom has established new goals and benchmarks to help it become a more diverse, inclusive and anti-racist organization, and has made strides towards these goals through notable product launches and curations," per the Pledge's release.
The decade commitment from Nordstrom is a "significant milestone" and signals increased interest from legacy retailers, the company said in an email.
"When we first launched the Fifteen Percent Pledge, our focus was on encouraging retailers to commit to a minimum of 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses," James said in a statement. "While this is still our ultimate goal, we know that progress won't be possible without growing the pipeline of Black-owned businesses. We applaud Nordstrom for the work they're doing to create financial opportunities for the Black community."
The 15 Percent Pledge now has 10 full-time employees and has signed on 27 companies across three countries to its pledge. In addition to Nordstrom, they include Ulta, Sephora, Rent the Runway, Medmen, Yelp, Vogue Magazine, Macy's Inc., Bloomingdales, Blue Mercury, InStyle U.S., Indigo, West Elm, Crate & Barrel, CB2, Madewell, Gap Inc., Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, KITH, Moda Operandi, Next Model Management, Hudson's Bay, Sephora Canada, J.Crew and MatchesFashion.
The organization is in the midst of developing a database, with nearly 1,200 Black small business owners and counting, "to ease connectivity between Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs with retailers that have committed to the Pledge." The database will be a password-protected resource exclusive to Pledge partners but will also have a public-facing option so that consumers themselves can support Black businesses.