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October is Breast Cancer Awareness month in the United States. Along with that comes a sea of pink products that supposedly support the fight against breast cancer...but did you know that just because something bears a pink ribbon, it isn't necessarily doing the good it implies it's going to do?
When a company uses breast cancer "awareness" to promote and sell products or services, that's called "pinkwashing". There is no regulation on use of the pink ribbon to promote products or services. Sometimes, the product you're buying does in fact associate with a small donation towards research - though many argue a direct donation makes more sense and does far more good, without the marketing. Often, the pink is just there to suggest to consumers that it'll be helpful, because of some nebulous idea that raising awareness will help, or the idea that such products offer consumers a way to express support for and solidarity with breast cancer patients and survivors. But there's a lot of money driving those campaigns, and the companies often profit far more than the people they are purportedly trying to help. Sometimes, the products sold "in support" of breast cancer cures actually contain chemicals associated with an increased risk for breast cancer! Here's a couple of example of misleading "pink" marketing from watchdog group Think Before You Pink:
"In 2010, Dansko shoe company sold pink ribbon clogs. Consumers likely thought that a portion of their purchase of pink ribbon clogs went to a breast cancer program. However, purchase of the pink ribbon clogs was not connected to Dansko’s donation—none of the portion of the sales went toward their already set donation of $25,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. No matter whether or not you bought the clogs, their donation was the same."
[Also in 2010,] Reebok marketed a line of pink ribbon emblazoned footwear and apparel at prices ranging from$50 to $100. Though it heavily promoted the fact that some of their pink ribbon product sales would be donated to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, they set a limit of $750,000, regardless of how many items were sold, and there was no mechanism in place to alert consumers once the maximum donation had been met."
So before you buy a pink teddy bear or pair of shoes that claims to support a cure, please check out Think Before You Pink's list of critical questions to ask before making a pink purchase, and be aware of cause marketing in general. And let's talk in comments - is this is a phenomenon you've noticed, and what are the worst offenders you've seen? Are there organizations you do trust when it comes to raising funds for breast cancer?