In response to customers' growing expectations that retailers take action on environmental and social issues, big names like Macy's, Gap and IKEA have made pledges to change their business practices.

The environmental and social causes that have been front and center—especially in 2020—have nudged several more established retail chains to take action.

Macy’s Inc. companies (including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury), Sephora, West Elm, Crate & Barrel and Gap Inc. brands (including Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta) have all signed onto the 15 Percent Pledge. The initiative began last year as an attempt to allot 15% of retailers’ shelf space for products from Black-owned businesses or increase representation in their workforces as Black people account for roughly 15% of the U.S. population.

While Ulta Beauty Inc. hasn’t taken the pledge, it plans to double the number of Black-owned beauty labels on its shelves to about 5% of the store’s offerings by the end of the year and spend $4 million to market them. The retailer also will increase spending on inclusion and anti-discrimination training programs to combat reports of racial profiling of customers in stores. Gap says it will expand internships and mentorship programs to groom workers in communities of color and seeks to double the number of its Black and Latino employees to remove barriers to entry.

To underscore its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, Sephora commissioned a large-scale study on racial bias in retail and will be implementing changes across its U.S. stores to mitigate racially biased experiences and the unfair treatment of shoppers. The plan includes a more inclusive marketing program and greater accountability through updated employee conduct policies. Sephora’s website will also prominently feature and advertise Black-owned brands through a dedicated tab, and the retailer will cultivate a more diverse influencer group.

IKEA also recently announced it will continue to push sustainable forestry and biodiversity, setting the goal of having at least one-third of its wood sourced from recycled timber by 2030. The furniture brand’s ambitions also include working to enhance biodiversity to mitigate climate change and continuing to reduce its climate footprint.


Time will tell whether the moves by legacy players will be long-term commitments, but retail experts say it’s a good first step in addressing racial inequities or harmful environmental practices in the industry. And given the size of these companies, they have the potential to make the biggest impact.

Macy’s is No. 14 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, Gap is No. 23, West Elm’s parent Williams-Sonoma Inc. is No. 25 and Ulta is No. 67. Crate & Barrel’s parent Otto Group is No. 1 in the 2020 Europe 500, Sephora’s parent LVMH is No. 8 and IKEA is No. 16.