Breast Cancer Awareness Month: BBB Advises Be Aware of Pinkwashing

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and many products are promoted as benefitting charities dedicated to cancer research or survivor assistance. But some pink products may provide limited benefits to charities, BBB advises. October is the month when “pinkwashing” begins.
October 15, 2015

Pinkwashing” is a term used to describe unscrupulous companies that claim to support breast cancer, but never actually fulfill their claim about donating toward breast cancer charities.

Every October, thousands of products display the pink ribbon or pink packaging in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While many of these products have a real tie to breast cancer charities, other pink-labeled products can be described as a form of “pinkwashing” and provide very limited benefit to charities, if any at all. 

BBB has found pink products ranging from lint rollers to teddy bears. However, past research has shown that while some products promise significant donations to breast cancer charities, others do not.

Many products lay out the amount they contribute to charities on the packaging, which BBB believes is the best way to inform consumers who are interested in buying products to support those charities. However, other products make only vague claims, or they require consumers to mail in proof of their purchase before donations can be made.

Raising awareness of breast cancer and supporting research for a cure are causes that have broad support among women and men. But companies need to do more than change the color of their packaging if they are going to market themselves as benefactors of breast cancer charities.

If you want to support breast cancer charities by purchasing products, BBB advises that you look into how that purchase will benefit a charity and which charity will get the money. 

More tips:

  • Inspect the product for information.  Many companies clearly report on labels how much of their sales go to charity and specifically where the money goes.
  • Check the company’s website.  If the information isn’t on the product itself, it often can be found at the website address printed on the product packaging.
  • If you still can’t find the information, call the company and ask for it. Firms that use charity tie-ins to market their products should be transparent to consumers.
  • Contact the charity directly if you have doubts they are receiving proceeds.
  • Check out the charity to decide whether you believe it is worthy of your support. One way to do this is by contacting BBB to determine whether the charity meets the BBB’s 20 Standards for Accountability

Consumers can find reports on charities at The Wise Giving Alliance examines the percentage of its money a charity spends on programs, its governance, fund-raising, informational materials and effectiveness. Charities who meet all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability can become BBB Accredited Charities. 

Some tips for avoiding charity scams include:

  • Be wary of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on describing what the charity will do.
  • If you contribute, do not give cash.  Make a check or money order out to the name of the charitable organization, not to the individual collecting the donation.
  • Watch out for excessive pressure for on-the-spot donations.  Be wary of any requests to send a “runner” to pick up your donation.
  • Be wary of charities that are reluctant to answer reasonable questions about their operations, finances and programs.  Ask how much of your gift will be used for the activity mentioned in the appeal and how much will go toward other programs and administrative and fundraising costs. 

Before you do business with a charity or company, check its Charity Report at (national reports) or if it’s a local charity, call the BBB that services that area. Make sure the money you give goes to a reputable charity. 

Breast cancer affects us all in one way or another. When you give, especially for someone you love, you want to make sure your money is being used in the most effective way possible.

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