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US retailer pledges $1M a year for anti-racist causes

Words by Smiley Team

February is Black History month in the US and to mark the occasion, fashion retailer Nordstrom has made a series of commitments to support anti-racist causes. These include a pledge to donate $1 million annually, for five years, to organisations working towards racial equality, as well as promises to promote Black designers and to improve diversity among its staff.

Non-profits that will benefit from their annual donations include NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the US’s top legal firm fighting for racial justice; Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, a global organisation across the UK, US and Canada that uses local networks to tackle racial injustices; and the National Urban League, a civil rights advocacy organisation. 

Nordstrom will bring Black designers to the fore of their collections, with products made by Black people, for Black people, across their beauty and clothing ranges. Among its staff, they will improve diversity through pay equity, in its leadership and among its board of directors.

Among those behind Nordstrom’s commitments is Pete Nordstrom, their chief brand officer and president, who said: "We are a part of the communities we serve, and that means we have a responsibility to create a sense of welcoming and belonging for all. 

“We know our impact extends beyond our own walls and we're committed to taking steps to be a part of the solution by making Nordstrom a better, more inclusive and anti-racist company for our employees, customers, partners and communities."

Fashion for all

Partnering with black-founded brands, they will expand their cosmetics to cater to people with an even broader range of skin colours than before. To increase opportunities for Black and minority ethnic groups, they hope to deliver $500M in retail sales from brands owned by, operated by or designed by Black and Latinx individuals. 

"We're committed to improving the diversity of the vendors we partner with across all parts of our business," said Teri Bariquit, the chief merchandising officer at Nordstrom. "We're making strong progress to find and support diverse brands and we are very excited to introduce them to our customers. Most importantly, these brands and the products they offer help us meet the diverse needs of our customers while continuing to create the inspiration and discovery they expect to find when shopping at Nordstrom."

In their workforce, they intend to increase the proportion of Black and Latinx managers by at least 50 per cent. This builds on their 2019 achievements of reaching 100 per cent pay equity (across different jobs) and nearly 100 per cent pay parity (for people doing the same job). Their female employees reached 68 per cent in 2019 and 60 per cent of the leadership. Meanwhile, nearly half of its board of directors are people of colour.

In making these steps, Nordstrom is joining a string of other companies responding to the Black Lives Matter protests against the killing of George Floyd among many others. Apple recently launched a Racial Equity and Justice Initiative to support racial equality in its workplaces and training programmes. Run by Mark Zuckerberg’s wife, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative recently donated $5.8 million to US charities working towards equality in education, and Netflix pledged to improve inclusivity in its workplace.

But more can follow. Inclusive working environments have numerous advantages for employers as well as employees. According to one study, inclusive teams improve workers’ performance by up to 30 per cent. Another study found that this can also result in 2.3 times higher cash flows per employee.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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