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More representation of Black-owned businesses: now Yelp embraces 15 Percent Pledge

Notorious giant business review website Yelp declared yesterday that it has committed to the Fifteen Percent Pledge, a U.S. campaign for retailers and companies aimed to raise the representation of Black-owned businesses to 15%.

The Pledge, founded in May by Brooklyn-based creative director Aurora James, is aimed to find more pragmatic ways in which the fashion industry could be of service, beyond the Black Lives Matter statements that were beginning to hit Instagram feeds. James explained: “We were talking specifically about Target, and I said if we’re thinking about big retailers that are starting to offer solidarity with people of colour, we hold a trillion dollars of spending power in this country. Black people represent 15% of the population, and so stores like Target should make sure they’re hitting 15% of Black-owned business on their shelves. If they agreed to do that in a major way, which isn’t even that major—it’s kind of the bare minimum, in fact—then a whole ricochet effect could take place. Why not try?”

The company logo for Yelp! is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. Image credit REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Four days later, and the 15 Percent Pledge was a registered charity, and Yelp is currently the sixth major company to join. It follows beauty retailer Sephora, furniture brand West Elm, cannabis retailer Med Men, online designer rental service Rent The Runway, and Vogue Magazine.

Searches for Black-owned businesses between June 18 and August 23 were up 6,052% on Yelp’s U.S. site compared to a year earlier, highlighting a surge in consumer interest in supporting businesses within the Black community since the murder of George Floyd and ensuing Black Lives Matter protests in recent months.

The company also launched a tag for businesses to identify themselves as Black-owned in June. Google followed suit in July.

Nonetheless, Yelp pointed out that by the first quarter of 2021, 15% of community events it hosted would feature Black-owned businesses and that Black-owned businesses would constitute 15% of the vendors its team works with for internal events.

It also plans for 15% of its Instagram content to feature Black-owned businesses and 15% of its lists to focus on and include them.

The Nokia X and an iPhone displaying the Yelp mobile application. Photo illustration by Juliana Jiménez. Image credit Gustau Nacarino/Reuters and Nir Elias,Paneikon/MED /Slate

Retailers from health and beauty retailer Boots to luxury goods website Farfetch and independent business platform Etsy have struck deals with Black-owned businesses since the Black Lives Matter protests.

Still, audits conducted by the 15% Pledge campaign team of retailers including Target, Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks and others in the United States found Black-owned businesses currently constitute on average just 1% of U.S. retailers’ supplier base.

“So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities... This is the least you can do for us,” James posted on Instagram on May 30. “We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.”


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