Think Before You Pink!

It’s that time of the year again, where the stores are filled to the brim with pink colored items, when we’re all reminded that we still have no cure for cancer and that many organizations need money to continue with research and assistance. If you’re like me you wonder, does buying a pink can opener really help? Does purchasing a pink ribbon magnet to go on my car do anything besides tell people, “Hey, I bought a pink ribbon for my car?” That said, you can understand why I was thrilled to become acquainted with Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign.

(text taken from the Think Before You Pink website)

Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.

Think Before You Pink also highlights “pinkwashers”—companies that purport to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon campaign, but manufacture products that studies indicate are linked to the disease.

The list of pink ribbon products grows every year. From candy to clothing to automobiles, thousands of companies are pinning pink ribbons on their products in an attempt to boost their image and their profits by connecting themselves to a good cause.

Before you impulsively buy one of these products in the belief that your money is going to do good, Breast Cancer Action urges you to “think before you pink”—and ask these critical questions:

How much money from your purchase actually goes toward breast cancer? Is the amount clearly stated on the package?

Some companies, like Tribeca, offer a pink version of their product but don’t specify how much of your purchase will be donated. Tribeca is selling a pink USB flash drive and the package says that a donation from the sale of the drive will be made to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. What you can’t tell just by looking at the package is how much “part of the proceeds” is.

When the package does state the amount of the donation, is that amount enough? Fox Home Entertainment, for example, is selling “DVDs for the Cure” for $14.95 and donating 50 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Is this a significant contribution, or a piddly amount? You decide. If you can’t tell how much money is being donated, or if you don’t think it’s enough, give directly to the organization instead.

What is the maximum amount that will be donated?

Many companies place a cap on the amount of money that will be donated. For example, Give Hope Jeans, sold by White House Black Market for $88, will donate “net proceeds” from the sale to the organization Living Beyond Breast Cancer. But they’ve capped their contributions at $200,000. This means that once they’ve reached the $200,000 limit they will stop contributing, no matter how many pairs of jeans are bought.

In some cases, that cap is a generous amount. In some cases it’s not. But you should know that, whenever there is a cap, your individual purchase may not contribute anything to the cause, depending on when you shop and whether the cap has already been met.

How are the funds being raised?

Does making the purchase ensure a contribution to the cause? Or do you, the shopper, have to jump through hoops to make sure the money gets where it’s supposed to go? Lean Cuisine, for example, has a pink ribbon on its boxes of frozen meals, but if you read closely, you’ll find out that the purchase of the meal does not result in any donation to a breast cancer organization. Instead, consumers must visit the Lean Cuisine web site and buy a pink Lean Cuisine lunch tote. Then, $5 of that purchase will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?

Does the product’s package tell you where the money goes and what will be done with it? For example, Penn is selling pink tennis balls and the package says that 15 cents of your purchase will go to “a Breast Cancer Research Organization.” It doesn’t tell you which organization or what kind of research will be done. Will the money go to fund the same studies that have been ongoing for decades (which already get enormous financial support)? Or will it go to under funded, innovative research into the causes of breast cancer?

If the donation is going to breast cancer services, is it reaching the people most in need, in the most effective way? The Breast Cancer Site store, for example, donates money to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which helps pay for mammograms for women who cannot afford them. But mammograms are already covered for low-income women through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Although this screening program does have limitations, what is most needed is the funding to get low-income women treatment if breast cancer is found.

What is the company doing to assure that its products are not actually contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

Many companies that raise funds for breast cancer also make products that are linked to the disease. BCA calls these companies “pinkwashers.” BMW, for example, gives $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure each time you test-drive one of their cars, even though pollutants found in car exhaust are linked to breast cancer. Many cosmetics companies whose products contain chemicals linked to breast cancer also sell their items for the cause. Pinkwashers would make a much more valuable contribution to women’s lives if they made safer products, instead of wrapping themselves in the pink ribbon.

Contribute to a Cause, Not Cause-Marketers

Some of these answers will be easy to find, some won’t be. But you’re entitled to know, and the companies marketing these products should provide this information.

You might not always be able to make an informed decision while you’re standing in the store. Make the best choice you can with the information you have. If you have trouble getting answers or if you feel that a promotion is questionable, write to the company responsible, consider buying a different product, and tell your friends about Think Before You Pink.

To learn more visit Breast Cancer Action and Think Before You Pink.