First launched in Paris in 1970, the luxe omni-brand beauty retailer owned by the ultra lux retail group, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, and operates over 2500 stores in 32 countries worldwide.
In 2019, Sephora launched their new tagline “We Belong to Something Beautiful,” as a declaration to their dedication of creating a space where their clients and employees feel like they belong and “to publicly strive for a more inclusive vision for retail in the Americas.”
With our trusty Arbor values in tow, can Sephora back up their boastful claims of inclusiveness and sustainability? Spoiler: for the most part, yes.
Human Rights 4/5
Corporate sustainability can’t be fully actualized without a meaningful emphasis on the communities, diversity, and the identities of their consumers. Sephora has recently done a great job promoting diversity and inclusion as part of their corporate manifesto (keep scrolling to see where they fell short). This includes for improving their support for LGBTQ2S+ communities and for an emphasis on products offered in a broad and inclusive range of colours for a range of skin types.
The Sephora brand has been a leader in the retail sphere for setting the standard for racial diversity and inclusivity in its stores. In 2020 Sephora commissioned a first-of-its-kind study on racial bias in retail. The goal of the Racial Bias In Retail Report was to provide retailers with data to drive change within the industry based on the firsthand experiences of BIPOC employees and customers. The study led to the conclusive result that –surprise, surprise– racial bias and exclusionary treatment in retail settings disproportionality impacts BIPOC shoppers.
“To make the shopping experience more inclusive, it is critical that retailers develop strategies based on data – as Sephora has begun to do – and tailor them to the specific conditions of their business. That, for me, is the primary contribution of this study. It will help retailers better identify key areas of challenge and opportunity, and ultimately “ it will help them evaluate progress.” Dr David Crockett, Sephora Research Advisor and leading scholar on retail racism
The end-game of the study is an action plan designed and made freely available for retailers. What sets this study aside is that it isn’t just show of classic corporate virtue signaling or the creation of a program to just profit off of the results, it is an actionable step that resulted in a usable framework for businesses, big or small, to take a hard look at how BIPOC shoppers are being impacted in their stores and the steps they need to take towards the eradication of bias and racism within their walls.
In the same year, Sephora was the first major retailer to sign the 15% Pledge –a pledge signed and sealed by major retailers who accept the challenge to dedicate 15 percent of it’s shelf space for products by black-owned brands. Sephora currently has 36 persons of colour-owned brands available and is dedicated to increasing that number. On May 17, 2021, Sephora Canada upped the ante, and committed to allocating 25 percent of all of it’s shelf space to BIPOC-owned brands by 2026.
Sephora has a long history of being an inclusionary space for the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Through their community-driven initiative Sephora Stands, their Classes for Confidence offer a variety of in-store and online tutorials such as the Bold Beauty classes created for the transgender and non-binary communities.
Sephora’s Beauty Insider points program, where customers can earn points on purchases for products and deals, now allows customers the chance to redeem their points as a monetary charitable donation made by Sephora on their behalf. They have partnered with organizations such as Act to Change, a nonprofit dedicated to ending bullying among Asian American and Pacific Islander youth. You find the full list of their charitable partners here.
Environmental Care 3/5
Environmental Innovation 4/5
Good Arbor scores are all about transparency and the accessibility of information. As an Arbor user, or someone new to this site wanting to see what it’s all about, whichever the case may be, you are here because you likely make a conscious effort to purchase sustainably. And with that, want to know the wheres, whys, and hows, of how the companies you support choose to make an impact.
Sephora has an easily accessible Public Chemicals Policy with the intent to be as transparent as possible about the safety, quality, and traceability of the ingredients in the products they sell. Their goal is to reduce the amount of problematic chemicals in their products by 50% within the next three years. You can read the full 2020 report here. These chemicals are ones identified by health and environmental groups as being either high in allergens, impurities or by-products. Since 2015, Sephora has also worked with, and funded, The Sustainability Consortium to produce their Beauty and Personal Care Rating System. This publicly available system outlines the key indicators for sustainable manufacturing including packaging, disclosure and transparency, human health, supply chain, and environmental impact.
In 2018, Sephora joined the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (“GC3”), to drive and increase the commercial acceptance of “green chemistry” across a variety of industries.
Straight from the EPA: “Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry applies across the life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, use, and ultimate disposal. Green chemistry is also known as sustainable chemistry.” Why is this important? Because this process not only has less of an impact on the environment from the get-go but it also reduces the need to remediate, or clean-up, pollutive byproducts and contaminants that get into waterways or that can lead to environmental spills and disasters. Huge bonus points.
For the past seven years, Sephora has been an EPA Green Power Partner and has powered all of it’s US stores, distribution centers, and corporate offices with 100% renewable energy.
In 2018, they purchased 23.7 million kWh of renewable energy –a whopping increase of 80% from 2017. Which is enough energy to power one house with clean energy for 2300 years.
According to Sephora’s CEO, Chris de Lapuente, “We aspire to be the most loved beauty community in the world, and as a part of this, Sephora, has a responsibility as an industry leader to help benchmark exemplary environmental performance. New Technologies, equipment, and eco-friendly materials are being introduced all the time and impact every aspect of our business– architecture, store operations, logistics, and products.”
Corporate Ethics 3/5
Job Quality 3/5
In their continued crusade to prioritize diversity and inclusion within the workplace, Sephora has partnered with community organizations and advocacy groups and offers a 9-week training program in their US distribution centres to create an accessible working environment for those with disabilities. At the end of each training course, the graduates are offered full-time employment with benefits and equal pay and are held to the same standard as their co-workers. At Sephora’s Mississippi Distribution Center, 30 percent of the workforce have a disability.
“Employing individuals with disabilities has proven to be more meaningful than any of us ever imagined. Our employees with disabilities are truly fearless and have inspired us to focus first on our abilities and I will forever be grateful to them.” Tucker Morgan, GM of the Sephora Las Vegas distribution centre
Sephora has drummed up a bit of controversy over the years from multiple claims of discrimination in their stores. Recording artist, SZA –who was once an employee at a Sephora in California– went on Twitter proclaiming that while visiting a different Sephora location, employees called security on her under the assumption she was stealing.
In 2014, Sephora was hit with a class action lawsuit brought about by four women of Chinese descent claiming that the brand discriminated against them, and thousands of others, based on their Asian surnames. The lawsuit stated that Sephora shutdown their Beauty Insider accounts and blocked access to the Sephora website to those with Asian surnames, or emails from Chinese domains under the suspicion that they were taking advantage of a sale to buy up products in bulk only to resell them for a profit. The plaintiffs for the case were longtime Sephora shoppers –whose makeup purchases were compact at best– and are all based in the US. In 2017 the claim was settled and granted approval by the courts.
To keep themselves corporately accountable to upholding the results of their Racial Bias in Retail Report, and in an attempt to avoid further public floggings for discrimination, Sephora will be sharing their progress bi-annually in their Diversity and Inclusion section of their site and has mandatory anti-racism and diversity training for all employees.
In 2021, it is the bare minimum that companies like Sephora not only invest in diversity and inclusivity on their home-front, but use their influence to create actionable impact to reform the beauty industry.