October is the month to wear and to display pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, right? Not necessarily…
Over the years, the pink ribbon has changed from cancer prevention to an object that has become corporatized. It is disturbing to know some companies are putting a pink ribbon on their products to spread awareness without a donation to the cause. It is even more disturbing to learn many corporations are selling pink ribbons on their products that are CAUSING cancer! Somehow, the sight of finding the cure has become lost in this pink frenzy.
Before you purchase anything pink, the non-profit organization, Breast Cancer Action, has created four questions to ask before making a “pink” purchase.
Take the time to educate yourself about the pink ribbon and what it has morphed in to. It’s time to unravel the pink ribbon and start asking questions.
The big questions: Where does the money go? How much is going to cancer research anyway?
Karuna Jagger, Executive Director of Breast Cancer Action, shared that pink products are flooding the market with very little coming in for cancer awareness…and even less for cancer prevention. She encourages consumers to “follow the money.”
Journalists call her frequently to ask her how much has been raised for the pink breast cancer campaign.
Karuna tells the journalists, “I would love for you to figure that out!” As no one knows how much money has been raised for breast cancer.
Companies are savvy. They know if you put a pink ribbon on a product, it will sell better and create consumer loyalty because it shows a company cares.
But, do they?
The History of the Pink Ribbon
The breast cancer ribbon movement was started by Charlotte Haley, a breast cancer survivor, after her mother, sister, and daughter had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Charlotte created the salmon-colored ribbon to shed light on the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for the lack of funding for the prevention of breast cancer.
- The original “pink ribbon” was salmon-colored.
- Charlotte started the grass-roots movement by putting the salmon-colored ribbon on postcards in Southern California.
- She handed them out at grocery stores and various public places where she received national media attention.
Estee Lauder and SELF Magazine wanted to join forces with Charlotte to raise money for breast cancer.
Charlotte knew her mission of preventing breast cancer would not align with Estee Lauder’s toxic perfumes and skin products and SELF Magazine’s corporate focus. Charlotte declined the offer.
- Estee Lauder’s and SELF Magazine’s lawyers told them to simply change the color of the ribbon. They did!
- Estee Lauder and SELF Magazine hired focus groups to decide on a color.
- The pink color chosen was decided on because it was soft, feminine, soothing…everything that breast cancer is not.
Basically, Estee Lauder and SELF Magazine stole Charlotte’s ribbon idea by changing the color to pink.
- The pink ribbon’s focus is on breast cancer AWARENESS. Do we really need AWARENESS? What about PREVENTION?!?
By the way, where is the money going?!?
Breast Cancer Action coined the term pinkwashing as part of our Think Before You Pink® campaign. Pinkwasher: (pink’-wah-sher) noun. A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.
Critical Questions to Ask Before You Buy Pink
1. Does any money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs? How much?
Any company can put a pink ribbon on its products. The widely recognized pink ribbon symbol is not regulated by any agency and does not necessarily mean it effectively combats the breast cancer epidemic. Some products sport pink ribbons to try to communicate that they are “healthy” and don’t contribute to breast cancer, such as a number of natural health and beauty products. Other products have a pink ribbon in order to indicate that the company supports breast cancer programs even if the company’s contributions are not tied to the purchases of the specific product bearing the ribbon. Still other companies give a portion of an item’s cost to a breast cancer organization but may require further action on the part of the consumer for the donation to be realized. Can you tell how much money from your purchases will go to support breast cancer programs? If not, consider giving directly to the charity of your choice instead.
EXAMPLE: 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.
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?
Many companies that sell pink ribbon products and donate a percentage of each sale to breast cancer programs fail to indicate which of the many different breast cancer organizations will get the money. Furthermore, the consumer is left to trust that these organizations are engaged in work that is meaningful and makes the greatest difference. 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? Does the money go to truly addressing the root causes of the epidemic, like social inequities that lead to women of color and poor women dying more often of breast cancer, or environmental toxins that are contributing to high rates of breast cancer? Before donating, check the recipient organization’s website to make sure that its mission and activities are in line with your personal values. If you can’t tell, or you don’t know what the organization does, reconsider your purchase.
EXAMPLE: The KISSES for a Cure music box is advertised by its maker, The Bradford Exchange, online with the following: “A portion of the proceeds from this music box will be donated to help fight breast cancer.” It is not clear what breast cancer organizations would benefit, how much money they would receive, and what programs or work would be funded by the donation.
3. Is there a “cap” on the amount the company will donate? Has this maximum donation already been met? Can you tell?
Some companies that indicate that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a particular pink ribbon product will go to support breast cancer programs put an arbitrary “cap” on their maximum donation. Once the maximum amount has been met, the company may continue to sell the product with the pink ribbon without alerting customers that no additional funds will be donated to breast cancer organizations. This means you may be buying a product for which none of your purchase price will go to a breast cancer cause but only to the bottom line of the company.
EXAMPLE: 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 tothe Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, they set a limit of $750,000, regardless of how many items were sold, and therewas no mechanism in place to alert consumers once the maximum donation had been met.
4. Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breastcancer? What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breastcancer epidemic?
Many companies have sold pink ribbon products that are linked to increased risk of breast cancer. We believe that companies that are profiting from building a reputation based on their concern about breast cancer have a responsibilityto protect the public from possible harms when scientifi c research indicates that there is a risk or plausible reason forconcern. Some of the earliest cause-marketing companies were well-known cosmetics companies that continue to sell cosmetics containing chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer. Even car companies have gotten in on the action and sell cars that emit toxic air pollutants in the name of breast cancer. In considering a pink ribbon purchase, does the product contain toxins or otherwise increase our risk of breast cancer?
EXAMPLE: In 2011, Susan G. Komen for the Cure commissioned a perfume called Promise Me that contains unlisted chemicals that are regulated as toxic and hazardous, have not been adequately evaluated for human safety, and have demonstrated negative health effects. Although Komen said they would reformulate future versions of the perfume, without official adoption of the precautionary principle, there is no guarantee that future versions would be better.
If you have doubts about your pink ribbon purchase after reviewing these critical questions:
- Think before you spend your money on pink items. Download a handy PDF of critical questions, find out the real story behind where the pink ribbon came from, learn more about cause marketing and make a direct donation to Breast Cancer Action.
- Write a letter asking the company to be transparent about its donations.
- Consider giving directly to a breast cancer organization whose work you believe is most essential to addressing the breast cancer epidemic.
A Solution to the Rogue Pink Ribbon Campaign: Embracing a New HEALING Logo
Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over,
She became a butterfly.
The time has come for a new logo, the purple butterfly, to symbolize a HEALING movement.
“A Breast Cancer healing journey is very similar to that of a butterfly. You may start out having certain beliefs, habits and lifestyles but if you open your heart and mind, and are patient, you will see that your Breast Cancer journey is more than just healing your body physically. It is also about transforming the inner you. You will come to understand that your healing journey has a greater purpose- that you will emerge on the ‘other side’ as a happier, healthier, more fulfilled, and spiritual you.
Let’s begin the journey together…”
~ Dr. Veronique Desaulniers, Heal Breast Cancer Naturally, 7 Essential Steps to Beating Breast Cancer
Check out my online store, The Purple Healing Tree LLC, to support the Heal Breast Cancer journey by purchasing a car magnet, sticker, and/or baseball hat. T-shirts and other items to support the heal breast cancer movement will be added at a later date. Be sure to check back for new items!
From your sale, 10% of the proceeds will be donated to Breast Cancer Action, the watchdog of the Breast Cancer Movement. Breast Cancer Action does not accept any funding from entities that profit from or contribute to cancer. As a result, they are able to speak the truth about the billion dollar cancer industry.
Check out their campaign at: http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org
Thank you for your support of the Heal Breast Cancer movement!
Love and healing blessings,