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05/18/2022

Top retailers form charter to combat racial bias in retail; effort led by Sephora

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Print ad for the new Mitigate Racial Bias in Retail Charter (click to enlarge)

More than 20 leading U.S. retailers have signed a first-of-its-kind charter to implement strategies to reduce racially-biased experiences and unfair treatment of shoppers in the retail sector.

Initiated by Sephora and national non-profit Open to All, the new Mitigate Racial Bias in Retail Charter was informed by findings from the Racial Bias in Retail Study, a national study by Sephora which explored the ways in which BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) shoppers experience discrimination in retail settings.  The study found that two in five U.S. shoppers have experienced unfair treatment on the basis of their race or skin tone, and that one in five retail employees have experienced unfair treatment based on their race at work by either customers or coworkers. 

Twenty-eight retailers have signed the new Mitigate Racial Bias charter to date. They are: American Eagle Outfitters, Ascena Retail Group, Ben & Jerry’s, Capri Holdings (Michael Kors,Jimmy Choo, Versace), CarMax, Crocs, Dick’s, Gap Inc., H&M, J. Crew Group, Levi Strauss & Co., Michaels, Movado Group, Tapestry, Rue 21, Sephora and Zara.  In signing on, the companies pledged to design and implement actions that mitigate racial bias from the shopper experience, help foster inclusive shopping experiences for all and work together to share best practices across the retail industry to drive change.

“When we first commissioned the Racial Bias in Retail Study in 2019, it was our intent that the findings would serve as useful insights for the entire retail sector, including Sephora,” said Jean-André Rougeot, president and CEO, Sephora Americas.

“Today, we are proud to have this work resonate in such a deeply impactful way via the Charter, and with the commitment of so many retail signatories, we can collectively work to change the retail experience on a much faster and broader scale. We celebrate those that have joined and encourage others to sign on, as it’s not about perfection, it’s about a commitment to progress for shoppers today and tomorrow.”

The ways retailers can support the Charter include:

  • Increasing diversity across marketing, products, branding, and the workforce to help prevent exclusionary treatment before shoppers enter a store;
  • Providing critical employee training on the experience of shoppers of color to help address the disconnect between how BIPOC shoppers and store employees interpret interactions; and
  • Creating a feedback mechanism to improve service, and report back on any meaningful actions and progress toward fostering more inclusive experiences for BIPOC shoppers.

“The [Sephora] study underscored the pervasiveness of unfair treatment of BIPOC shoppers in retail spaces throughout this country,” said Calla Rongerude, director of Open to All. “We believe the retail industry should have a zero-tolerance discrimination policy. With the commitments from these companies, we can begin to address the problem, act, and start to make shopping more inclusive. Our goal is to create an environment that is truly open to all.”