If a product I normally buy suddenly appears with a pink ribbon on it, I quietly curse under my breath and then choose an alternate product. Is that going a little too far? Nope.
This is the trailer from the 2012 documentary directed by Léa Pool, Pink Ribbons, Inc.
I am in no way putting down those who are fighting breast cancer or those who are survivors. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and she despises the pink ribbon campaign. Did you notice this interview excerpt?
Corporations are making millions by putting pretty little pink ribbons on their products. Guilty parties include, KFC, Yoplait, Avon, Estée Lauder, Bee Sweet Citrus, Al Fresco meats, BMW, Reebok, Dansko, 5-hour Energy… There are over 200 companies affiliated with pink ribbons.
Dollars and Sense
Think Before You Pink is part of the watchdog group Breast Cancer Action. They provide resources to educate the public and help people give smarter. For example, at thinkbeforeyoupink.org, details are provided about how little money goes to breast cancer charities from the sale of pink ribbon items. Some companies put a cap on their donation. Regardless of how many pink ribbon items Reebok sold, a predetermined dollar amount would not be exceeded for their charitable contribution. Dansko made a set donation of $25,000.00 to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and put a pink ribbon on their shoes. However, no amount from the purchase of the shoes was donated to the organization.
Pinkwashing is the term Breast Cancer Action gives to corporations who’s products may actually contribute to breast cancer while raising money via pink ribbons. Cosmetic companies using known carcinogens in their make-up and dairy companies using the rBGH hormone contribute to the problem they are supposedly helping. KFC, who used this “bucket for the cure” in 2010,
helped their bottom line while serving chicken with high levels of PhIP, a known carcinogen, and contributed to the obesity epidemic, a major risk factor for breast cancer.
By educating consumers and pressuring companies to reduce carcinogens, Think Before You Pink is helping to make change. You can find them here.
The Komen Problem
The charity most often associated with pink ribbons is the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Komen is a particular favorite among charity walkers and those who don pink ribbon hats, shirts, scarves…but there are issues.
What’s in a name?
The Susan G. Komen foundation used to be called Susan G. Komen for the Cure. However, when using this name, the foundation only gave 17% of its profits to research. The rest went to promote awareness, support for patients and administrative costs. If a charity is “for the cure” they better be spending more than 17% on research. They have since dropped “for the cure” from their name and increased research contributions to 20% of their income.
How do I get that job?
The Susan G. Komen Foundation has also been criticized for the exorbitant salaries of its executives. Although the charity has been given 4 stars by Charity Navigator for its financial transparency, former CEO Nancy Brinker was pulling in a salary of over $680,000.00 in 2012. Although not a sign of wrongdoing, this is extremely unusual for an organization of its size. The current Komen CEO, Paula Schneider, well her salary information is currently “unavailable”.
What has the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon accomplished? It has padded the wallets of already rich CEOs. It has inspired people to purchase products that may be harmful to their health while believing they are doing good. It prompted one NFL player, when asked about his pink cleats during a side line interview, to yell “Yeah, support breast cancer”.
It has inspired younger woman to get mammograms earlier and older women to get them more frequently, thus increasing the diagnosis rate of breast cancer. Now whether this is a good thing as women are getting diagnosed earlier, or a bad thing because the radiation from more frequent mammograms could be a contributing factor in causing breast cancer, remains to be seen.
So that is why I won’t walk in your charity walk, dance in your Zumbathon, purchase your berry scented limited edition pink ribbon lipstick or support the pink in any way. I will bring meals to a family who has a member fighting cancer, help clean house or do yard work for an individual who is ill and provide child care during medical appointments or even naps.