It’s October 1 and it’s that time of year when pink will be popping up everywhere in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While many of us think we’re doing a noble thing by buying pink shoes, pink bracelets and pink buckets of fried chicken, “pinkwashing” is often just a marketing ploy to sell more products. Often times, it’s only a slim percentage that makes it to the cause. Sure, there are companies who donate 100% to breast cancer research or patients, but how do you really know if it’s real or just a scam? Just ask four questions.
The National Breast Cancer Coalition in Washington, D.C. has a goal of ending breast cancer by 2020, but is “Pinktober” really helping us get there? This year, 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer . It’s the second most common cancer and more than 40,000 women will die of the disease, according to the CDC.
Not that awareness isn’t good (it is), and not that wearing pink is wrong (it’s not). But before you buy into the pinkwashing this month, arm yourself with these critical questions to ask before you buy pink, according to Think Before You Pink:
1. Does any money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs? How much?
We’ve all seen pink ribbons on virtually everything from yogurt to nail polish to flip flops. Companies can put this on their products and convince you that you’re doing a good thing by forking over your cash. But before you do that, ask how much of your purchase will actually make it to the cause. And which cause? If they can’t answer that and back it up with proof, spend your dollars elsewhere. “Any company can put a pink ribbon on its products,” writes Think Before You Pink. “The widely recognized pink ribbon symbol is not regulated by any agency and does not necessarily mean it effectively combats the breast cancer epidemic.”
2. What organization will get the money? What will they do with the funds, and how do these programs turn the tide of the breast cancer epidemic?
There are a lot of breast cancer organizations out there. Make sure you find out exactly which one will be the recipient of your funds. For example writes Think Before You Pink, “If money goes to ‘services,’ are they reaching the people who need them most? How do screening programs ensure that women can get treatment? And how do breast cancer awareness programs address the fact that we already know that breast cancer is a problem and that action is needed in order to end the epidemic?”
3. Is there a “cap” on the amount the company will donate? Has this maximum donation already been met? Can you tell?
This one is cause for concern. Sometimes companies will select a limit for how much they plan to donate to breast cancer, but you may not know when that limit is met because they may continue to sell the pink ribbon products and simply pocket the cash. Check out their website or ask before you buy.
4. Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer? What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?
Remember last year when Kentucky Fried Chicken launched its pink bucket? Or when Susan G. Komen for the Cure commissioned a perfume called Promise Me that contained unlisted chemicals considered to be toxic? Make sure the product not only benefits those with breast cancer but also does not put you or others at risk for your own health.
The bottom line when it comes to pinkwashing: Do your research, make sure your purchases align with your values and be comfortable on where your dollars are being spent.