October is upon us, and the pink reminders that this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month seem more prolific than the autumn leaves scattering from the trees.
Here’s another reminder: Consumer beware. Just because a product is advertised with the familiar pink ribbon doesn’t mean your purchase is making a meaningful contribution on behalf of breast cancer research or charity.
From the Think Before You Pink website, here are five things to look for beyond the pink hype:
1. Will your purchase of a product actually result in a donation to the cause? The use of the pink ribbon symbol is unregulated. Some companies use it on their products to show support but their contributions aren’t tied to purchases of pink-ribbon products. In other cases, the consumer has to do something further, e.g. sending in labels or boxtops, before the donation is realized. Sometimes the company also caps its donations, yet continues to sell the product to consumers who are unaware that their purchases are no longer being used to support the cause.
2. Is the company transparent about how much it donates from its pink-ribbon proceeds?
3. Who gets the money? Pledges that your purchase will help support “programs” or “services” for women with breast cancer are vague. Statements that your purchase will help promote “awareness” of breast cancer are vaguer yet. Buyers who sincerely want to make a difference should know where their money is going and whether it’s going to a credible organization.
4. What will the money be used for? Will it be spent on services that directly benefit women with breast cancer? Will it make a dent in screening, treatment or prevention? Or is mostly being spent on administrative costs and marketing?
5. Are the company’s pink-ribbon products and promotions in line with your personal values? For instance, are you OK with pink “limited edition” bags of potato chips? How do you feel about Booze for Boobs pub crawls, an event that sprung up in some communities in the U.S. a couple of years ago? (The organizers seem to be unaware that excess alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.) How do you feel about supporting the cause by buying pink-ribbon cosmetics that may contain potentially harmful chemicals?
Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, offers this final advice: If it looks like your money will do little, if anything, to support breast cancer programs, or if the company isn’t transparent, reconsider and make a direct donation instead to the charity of your choice.