West Elm Joins 15% Pledge to Boost Black-Owned Brands on Shelves

West Elm Inc. said it will devote more shelf space to products from Black-owned businesses and prioritize diversity in its workforce, joining companies across the U.S. vowing action in response to racial inequality.

The home-goods retailer signed onto the 15 Percent Pledge, a grassroots effort to increase representation of Black-owned brands in stores across the country. West Elm, owned by Williams-Sonoma Inc., said in a statement that it would also increase the share of Black employees at the corporate level to a minimum of 15%.

The plan adds to a renewed push across Corporate America to address systemic racism following the police killing of George Floyd in May and subsequent protests. The 15 Percent Pledge organization, whose name refers to the percentage of Black people in the U.S. population, was launched recently to encourage large companies to devote that much of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses.

West Elm joins cosmetics giant Sephora and clothier Rent the Runway taking the pledge. But while many companies have made donations or taken other steps to support the Black community, some retailers have been reluctant to sign onto the 15 Percent Pledge since founder Aurora James started the initiative. Some Black business owners have noted that, even if shelf space at major retailers is opened up, they would need more resources and capital due to the cost of ramping up production and building up supply chains.

West Elm plans to increase its design collaborations with Black designers, artists and Black-owned brands to at least 15%, while also boosting representation of local entrepreneurs, the Brooklyn-based company said. It also said it will make a multiyear donation pledge to the grassroots foundation.

“The 15 Percent Pledge was launched out of the need for increased representation in the workforce and financial equality for Black-owned businesses,” James said in the statement. She said she would work with West Elm on “accountability measures” to hit the targets.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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