Think pink

Conscious consumer

Think Pink! is a consumer awareness initiative, which anticipates the growing concern regarding the staggering number of pink ribbon products and promotions being marketed. Think Pink! calls for transparency and accountability on the part of companies involved in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to be critical about pink ribbon promotions. Think Pink! also highlights “Pink Abuse” — companies who promote pink ribbon campaigns, but also manufacture products linked to the disease.

To counter this “Pink Abuse” Pink Ribbon strives to implement a universal symbol, a hallmark, to recognise fair use of the Pink Ribbon symbol. This symbol will indicate towards the consumer that both the supporting corporation, as well as the breast cancer foundation, are accredited, trustworthy institutions. Pink Ribbon prefers a clear contribution to accredited breast cancer foundations. This means a total overview of the percentage donated per product, the amount of total funds donated, and the specific destination of the funds.

If you know a Pink Ribbon product that matches the criteria of “Pink Abuse” please contact us and let us know.

Questions you should ask

Before you instinctively buy products promoting Pink Ribbon, believing that it was money well spent, we urge you to ask the following questions. But keep in mind that this information is not always so easy to find.

Case studies of cause-marketing

Major cosmetics companies are marketing Pink Ribbon products to “support the fight against breast cancer”, while dozens of their products contain toxic ingredients that may be linked to breast cancer itself.


Think pink, think dirty

The Canadian-based startup Think Dirty has made an alliance with the San Francisco nonprofit Breast Cancer Fund in order to bring transparency in the cosmetic industry.

In the spirit of Think Pink! Conscious consumer campaign  Think Dirty has lunched a mobile app designed to clarify the ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products by just making barcode scan on your phone.

Lily Tse, founder and CEO of the project, was touch by cancer in her family and when she had the chance she decided to take action. “I was a huge supporter of several pink ribbon related events and fundraising efforts. I really wanted Think Dirty to be a champion of non-partisan breast cancer awareness initiatives,” says Lily on her site.

Get to know the project, download the app and start checking how safe the products you are using are. Become a Conscious consumer!


Questions you should ask

The amount of products wrapped in a pink ribbon grow every year. Thousands of corporations manufacturing products from perfume to toasters are sticking pink ribbons on their packaging in an attempt to boost their image and they profit, by associating themselves with a charitable cause. Before buying thinking you are pare of a good did, try to answer these questions.

What amount of the money you spend goes towards breast cancer?

When it comes to the amount of money you spend on products, and how much of that goes to charity it is important to look at the details of the campaign. There are companies such as 3M that give a fixed amount per purchase, but also companies such as Coach, who give a percentage of the retail price or profit.

Has the company put a ceiling on its donation?

Sometimes a company chooses to set a minimum donation, which is respectable, but there is often a maximum donation amount as well. For instance, in 1999 Yoplait stated that it would donate 50 cents per pink lid returned. What they failed to mention to the public is that there was a maximum donation cap, regardless of the number of lids the company received. Without the cap, Yoplait would have donated millions to breast cancer causes, instead they donated $100,000.

How much did the company spend to market its Pink Product?

Sometimes the marketing costs surpass the donation amount made by a company. An example comes from a 2005 PR Week article, where 3M boasted that its 2004 breast cancer awareness effort, involving a 70-foot-tall ribbon made of Post-it Notes in Times Square, reached more than three million people and increased sales by 80%. The article reports that 3M spent $500,000 on the marketing campaign, but donated only a little over half of this amount ($300,000) to the cause.

How are the funds being raised?

Every year Lee Jeans proclaims a day of the Breast Awareness Month “Lee National Denim Day”. A day where participating companies allow their employees to wear jeans to work in exchange for a $5 contribution. Lee Jeans in turn sends that $5 to breast cancer organizations. Lee’s website states that it donates the “net proceeds” from the scheme, but what is Lee’s definition of “net proceeds”, what costs need to be deducted from those $5?

Who gets your money, and what kind of programs does it support?

Does the company donate it to research? Which kind of research? Does it go to new, innovative studies, or studies that have been carried out for decades? Is it an underfunded study? or a study that is overfunded?

If it goes to services, then is it to people who need it the most? Are the campaigns local? or do they siphon off money for national, well funded research?

If it goes to advocacy and education, then does it go to local concentrated education programs?

What is the company doing to make sure that its products aren’t the cause for breast cancer?

Many companies which raise funds for breast cancer also make products that may be contributing to the epidemic. Does the promotion involve a company that uses aspartame in its products? Is the product used for the promotion an alcoholic beverage?

Contribute towards the cause not the marketing.

There are too many promotional campaigns to keep track of, and it’s difficult to verify a promotion while you are standing in the store. At the end of the day, a contribution is a contribution, no matter how small. If you have trouble getting answers, or you don’t approve of a promotion, try another product, and tell your friends.  If you want to contribute you can also always make a direct donation, breast cancer organisations don’t have a minimum donation amount.

Does the amount donated depend on the profit or revenue of the campaign?

Try to find out if the company has put requirements on their profits or revenue generated by the campaign. Sometimes companies will only donate a portion of the profit. As a result, the companies might not donate anything at all, because they might not always make a profit.

Has the cause-promotion expired?

Sometimes companies put a period on their cause promotion, meaning that they will only donate money generated during a specific period. It is always useful to try and check if the campaign is still supported by the sponsor, or else your money might not go towards research.

Case studies of cause-marketing

Breast cancer is a popular mechanism for corporate cause-marketing campaigns: companies try to strengthen their image and boost their revenue by associating themselves with a charitable cause. A few do so by promoting products that actually contribute to the disease. Is this philanthropy or hypocrisy? Corporate conscience belongs in a company’s products not just in its marketing. Here you have two examples of problematic promotions in the past:

Estee Lauder

Estee Lauder has been promoting breast cancer awareness, and contributing towards the cause for years. However, the company refuses to sign the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which ensures that its products contain no chemicals that are known, or strongly suspected, of contributing to the disease. For example, Estee Lauder products still contain parabens, a class of chemicals linked to breast cancer. Check out the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics website for more information.


Yoplait’s annual fall campaign, Save Lids to Save Lives, continues to urge consumers to buy pink-lidded cups of Yoplait yogurt. Yoplait donates ten cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for each pink lid mailed back to the company, to a certain maximum amount. However, the yogurt is made from cows treated with rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). Recent studies have shown that rBGH dairy products could be linked to an increased risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

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