George Floyd’s murder and subsequent racial reckoning has some companies struggling on how to meet the moment. Sephora, a Tides partner since 2017, makes it look easy. Along with taking the 15 Percent Pledge that will guarantee 15% of shelf space to black-owned businesses, they’ve also expanded their role in consumer activism with the launch of Charity Rewards, raising more than $2 million to support organizations dedicated to racial justice, like the National Black Justice Coalition. And that is only the tip of the iceberg of their work, as Tides’ staffer Erin Ceynar’s interview with Corey Yribarren, EVP, Chief People Officer demonstrates. Read on to learn more about Sephora’s social impact journey and how the company has fully embraced the responsibility that comes with their corporate presence.
Can you share who Sephora is? What is the vision of the company for our world?
Sephora is a leading, global prestige omniretailer, and our purpose is to create a welcoming beauty shopping experience and inspire fearlessness in our community. Through our continued expertise, innovation, and entrepreneurial spirit, Sephora encourages clients to explore the universe of beauty and wellness with an unbiased approach to experiential retail. We encourage our clients to explore over 400 curated brands across beauty and wellness, experience beauty services, as well as expert advice from our Beauty Advisors.
One of the main reasons I joined the Sephora team was to be a part of their incredible social impact journey. I am personally very passionate and committed to furthering our impact on society. Since our first store opened in the U.S. in 1998, Sephora has been a champion of diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment, guided by our longstanding company values. In 2019, we announced a new tagline and manifesto, “We Belong to Something Beautiful,” to reinforce our dedication to fostering belonging amongst all clients and employees and to publicly strive for a more inclusive vision for retail in North America.
We Belong to Something Beautiful.
Sephora believes in championing all beauty, living with courage, and standing fearlessly together to celebrate our differences.
Even if we stumble, we will never stop building a community where diversity is expected, self-expression is honored, all are welcomed, and you are included.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is at the center of all we do and we hope to advance these in our industry through our D&I Heart Journey and social impact programs. Our charitable partners were chosen for their impact and reach in supporting underserved communities across the U.S. It’s our goal to partner with these organizations beyond a financial contribution to support the important work they do in our communities.
Building on this, can you share how Sephora has moved towards what some might consider consumer activism with its rewards program. How is this manifesting itself as a new social impact offering?
Sephora’s Beauty Insider program is one of the most loved loyalty programs in retail. We’re known for bringing innovative and disruptive ideas to the beauty and retail space, and that is exactly what we did with Sephora’s Charity Rewards program. We saw an opportunity to provide this group of extremely passionate and engaged beauty enthusiasts a way to use their points to make a difference. Through the Rewards Bazaar, our clients can give back to charities that provide critical aid to our communities. We launched the program in June 2020 and each month, we’ve partnered with one charitable organization, whose work is focused on social justice and equity. To date, we’ve raised more than $2 million dollars and are very proud to continue this important work moving forward.
Through this program, you raised $2 million for racial justice. Why do you think this resonated with your stakeholders? How has the racial reckoning movement changed your view (or not) on the role of Sephora in solving social challenges?
When I started at Sephora, I was fortunate to walk into an organization driven by our longstanding values. Upon launching our “We Belong to Something Beautiful” campaign, and committing to building a community where everyone feels like they belong, we also recognized some very real hurdles to achieving this goal. While we aren’t perfect, we know that as an organization, we’re in a powerful position to make a difference, not only in our stores, but the beauty and retail industry at large.
To better arm ourselves with knowledge and insights needed to tackle this issue, Sephora commissioned a first-of-its-kind, broad-based research study, starting in the Fall of 2019 and ending in late 2020, in partnership with our Equity Advisors and research partners, on the state of bias in retail today. The findings of this study are helping us to not only measure the problem and understand where and how it plays out – both at Sephora and in retail more broadly – but to start identifying tactics that can make a difference to our clients. We plan to release all findings and corresponding commitments from Sephora in early 2021.
To further this work, in 2020 Sephora became the first major retailer to take the 15 Percent Pledge, committing 15% of our store’s shelf space to prestige Black-owned companies. I’m extremely proud that Sephora was the first major retailer to sign up for the Pledge and I know we will continue our efforts to create a better platform for Black-owned brands to grow. This is only the beginning and we encourage others to take the 15 Percent Pledge and help drive change for Black businesses and communities.
These are only a few examples of how Sephora continues to bring DE&I to the core of its mission and creating an inclusive environment for all. I encourage everyone to check out the rest of our commitments on our website: https://www.sephora.com/diversity-and-inclusion.
As Sephora’s built its social impact program, what have been your biggest learnings? What’s surprised you?
One thing that surprised us this past year was how generous and engaged our employees are with both supporting their fellow colleagues as well as charity organizations. In June, we launched an employee gift match campaign to raise funds for five social justice organizations. The campaign was the largest in our company’s history and brought in more than $150K in employee donations. Additionally, we have seen an increase in giving to our employee Gift of Time program. This is a program designed to provide additional support to employees who have exhausted their accrued Paid Time Off/Vacation time and need more due to unforeseen circumstances and/or a family crisis. Even during these difficult times, our employees have continued to amaze us with their compassion and generosity.
What advice would you share with companies on the cusp of consumer activism? What helped accelerate your reach—internally and externally?
My advice would be to leverage your strengths when it comes to social impact. The success of Sephora’s Charity Rewards program is a great example of this. We know that our community is a highly engaged group of individuals who place great importance on choice. We were able to provide them the opportunity to give back and it really resonated. It’s exciting to see the impact this program has had so far!
I’d imagine one constant in retail is how often the company needs to pivot due to market forces. What advice can you share with your fellow corporate social impact practitioners on holding steady the social impact work and accelerating your reach?
As I reflect upon the challenging year we’ve all faced, I feel strongly that we all must remain focused, compassionate, and resilient in our efforts to impact society and accelerate our reach. Even through tough times, we all must continue to stand together. Whether internally with your teams, or collectively as an industry. Stay tuned for more in 2021 from Sephora!