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'Pinkwashing': What it means and how to determine where to donate for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 17, 2022

Experts are warning consumers to watch out for “pinkwashing” as they look for products to purchase and organizations to donate to during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Pinkwashing is when a company or organization claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces or sells products that are linked to the disease, according to a definition by education organization Breast Cancer Action.

"If they're not actually helping to be a part of the cancer solution through cancer research, or through the products that they're developing, or the services that they are providing, then they're not really helping to solve the problem,” said Melissa Akaka, a marketing expert and co-director of the Consumer Insights and Business Innovation Center at the University of Denver.

Just because you see the pink ribbon image on a product or company doesn’t mean the purchase will help a breast cancer charity, according to charity evaluator, a part of the Better Business Bureau. The use of these images are not regulated.

“I think everybody wants to increase awareness around breast cancer, but the problem is that when people are profiting off of it in a way that doesn’t actually support the effort to solve the cancer problem, it becomes an ethical issue,” Akaka said.

Breast Cancer Action has some questions you can ask yourself before buying or donating:

  • Does any money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs?
  • What organization will get the money? What will they do with the funds?
  • Is there a “cap” on the amount the company will donate and has the maximum donation been met?
  • Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breast cancer?

"Consumers need to take responsibility to really follow the money and where their dollars are going, to look at the ingredients that are inside the products that they're purchasing, and even the processes through which they're manufactured,” said Akaka.

You can also look into a charity’s credibility at before donating.