Yelp joins 15 Percent Pledge to increase representation of Black-owned businesses

(Reuters) - Crowdsourced business review website Yelp YELP.N said on Monday it has committed to the Fifteen Percent Pledge, a U.S. campaign for retailers and companies to increase representation of Black-owned businesses to 15.

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for Yelp! is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Yelp is the sixth major company to join the Pledge, founded in May by Brooklyn-based creative director Aurora James. It follows beauty retailer Sephora, furniture brand West Elm, cannabis retailer Med Men, online designer rental service Rent The Runway, and Vogue Magazine.

Yelp said that by the first quarter of 2021, 15% of community events it hosted would feature Black-owned businesses and that Black-owned businesses would constitute 15% of the vendors its team works with for internal events.

It also plans for 15% of its Instagram content to feature Black-owned businesses and 15% of its lists to focus on and include them.

Yelp did not immediately provide comment on how close its current metrics were to these goals.

Searches for Black-owned businesses between June 18 and Aug. 23 were up 6,052% on the company’s U.S. site compared to a year earlier, Yelp said, highlighting a surge in consumer interest in supporting businesses within the Black community since the death of George Floyd and ensuing Black Lives Matter protests in recent months.

The company launched a tag for businesses to identify themselves as Black-owned in June. Google GOOGL.O followed suit in July.

Retailers from health and beauty retailer Boots WBA.O to luxury goods website Farfetch FCTH.K and independent business platform Etsy ETSY.O have struck deals with Black-owned businesses since the Black Lives Matter protests.

Still, audits conducted by the 15% Pledge campaign team of retailers including Target TGT.N, Whole Foods, Nordstrom JWN.N, Neiman Marcus NMRCUS.UL, Saks and others in the United States found Black-owned businesses currently constitute on average just 1% of U.S. retailers' supplier base.

“So many of your businesses are built on Black spending power. So many of your stores are set up in Black communities... This is the least you can do for us,” James posted on Instagram on May 30. “We represent 15% of the population and we need to represent 15% of your shelf space.”

Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; editing by David Evans and Susan Fenton