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Sephora Announces Racial Bias Action Plan

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The retailer is making details of its national Racial Bias in Retail Study available to all retailers as it calls for a more inclusive retail industry.

Sephora has announced its racial bias action plan which will be implemented across all of its U.S. stores in order to mitigate racially biased experiences and unfair treatment for shoppers in the retail sector.

Related: [update] Black Representation in Beauty: by the Numbers

The decisions are based on the results of the first-ever large-scale study on Racial Bias in Retail, commissioned by the retailer.

Coupled with the study’s findings and the retailer’s all-encompassing Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Heart Journey strategy, Sephora has designed a preliminary action plan to tackle bias across all aspects of its organization via three key areas.

1. Marketing and Merchandising

  • The company will double its assortment of Black-owned brands by the end of 2021.

  • Prominently feature and advertise Black-owned brands through a dedicated tab on the Sephora website.

  • Evolve the 2021 Accelerate brand incubator program to focus exclusively on cultivating and growing BIPOC-owned and founded brands.

  • Establish new marketing production guidelines that reinforce consideration of a diverse array of backgrounds, identities, ages and body types in its campaigns, social media, marketing and more.

  • Continue cultivating a diverse influencer group through the Sephora Squad.

2. The In-Store Experience and Operations

  • Roll out a new greeting system across all stores to ensure a more consistent experience for all store visitors upon entry.

  • Create new training modules required for all Beauty Advisors that better define what client engagement should look like at each point in the shopping experience and what behaviors will not be tolerated.

  • Establish a D&I In-Store Experience Dashboard that will provide analytics on client service and feedback to stores on a monthly basis to measure employee training compliance and efficacy.

  • Implement new client feedback mechanisms to better identify incidents of bias, including those experienced by non-purchasers.

  • Reduce the presence of third-party security vendors in stores and utilize more in-house specialists, with the goal of providing better client care and minimizing shoppers’ concerns of policing.

  • Implement procedural and operational changes to better allow Beauty Advisors to focus solely on client service, versus other tasks that can create a friction or misperception by shoppers.

3. Talent and Inclusive Workplaces

  • Build new recruiting, mentorship, community, and career development programs to support the sourcing, hiring and advancement of employees of color.

  • Building on its Pull Up For Change commitment, Sephora will transparently share progress on employee representation on a bi-annual basis at Sephora.com.

  • Ensure all corporate team members have D&I goals as part of their annual performance metrics.

  • Update zero-tolerance policies that prohibit discrimination, harassment and other violations of its code of conduct to ensure clearer communication, expectation and enforcement of its policies for employees, including set outcomes if violated.

  • Ensure 100% participation with foundational unconscious bias training for all new hires.

  • Increase the frequency and depth of employee training, adding new modules that offer strategies to identify bias and exhibit inclusive behaviors in the workplace.

In addition to the above, Sephora will continue to communicate its progress against these actions on a bi-annual basis via a new D&I dedicated section of Sephora.com.

Sephora also aims to make learnings and opportunities transparent to other U.S. retailers who may wish to enact systemic change within their own organizations.

Lastly, Sephora will be partnering with leading trade and diversity organizations Open to All, RILA and Diversity Best Practices to ensure dissemination to interested retail leaders.

The action plan is based on the Sephora's Racial Bias in Retail Study that shows:

  • Two in five U.S. retail shoppers have personally experienced unfair treatment on the basis of their race or skin tone.

  • Black retail shoppers are 2.5x more likely than white shoppers to receive unfair treatment based on their skin color (44% vs. 17%), while BIPOC shoppers are 2x more likely than white shoppers to receive unfair treatment based on their ethnicity (30% vs. 15%).

  • One in five retail employees report having personally experienced unfair treatment based on their race at their place of work (20%), either from customers or coworkers.

  • One in three retail employees have contemplated quitting when they experienced racial bias and unfair treatment (31% for all employees; 37% for Black employees).

Jean-André Rougeot, president and CEO, Sephora Americas, said, “At Sephora, diversity, equality, and inclusion have been our core values since we launched a new kind of beauty retail destination in the United States over 20 years ago, but the reality is that shoppers at Sephora, and in U.S. retail more broadly, are not always treated fairly and consistently."

Rougeot added, “We know that we’re in a strong position to influence positive changes in the retail industry and society at large and it’s our responsibility to step up. We’re committed to doing all we can to make our U.S. retail experience more welcoming for everyone. Today, we are proud to share a first-look at Sephora’s action plan designed to tackle the issue of unfair treatment. We know it will be a journey, but we’re committed to holding ourselves accountable to this mission for the benefit of our clients, our employees, our communities, and the retail industry at large."