Not So Pretty in Pink


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Well, it looks like cancer has been one-upped in the insidious department.

Turns out that many companies that promote a cure for breast cancer are at the same time contributing to rising rates of the disease through the products they make. It is called pinkwashing and, like companies that make unsubstantiated claims to being green, it is a flagrant abuse of a good cause for the sake of profit.

According to a recent report in the journal Environmental Justice, several corporations have tried to benefit from the breast cancer cause by using their brands to raise awareness of the disease. Yet at the same time these companies produce products made with chemicals linked to cancer.

Among the report’s argument, pinkwashing shifts the focus from the causes of cancer to “the cure.”

“The corporate practice of pinkwashing has interfered with the public recognition of environmental causes of breast cancer and creates significant barriers to better health outcomes for women in the United States,” states the report, written by Amy Lubitow and Mia Davis. Lubitow is an assistant professor of sociology at Portland State University, in Oregon. Davis is organiing director of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, in Boston.

And, with women controlling 70 cents to 85 cents of every household dollar that is spent, they say, breast cancer is a topic of mass consumer appeal and therefore a logical marketing tool.

Among the companies cited in the report are Avon and its “Kiss Goodbye to Breast Cancer” campaign. The program, launched in 2001, raises money for a cure through the sale of lipsticks. The problem is that more than 250 Avon products include ingredients that, while legal, are linked to breast cancer. This could be an awful mistake – maybe marketing didn’t know what the guys in R&D were doing. But it could turn out to a pretty expensive oversight, not to mention a PR nightmare now that the Lubitow and Davis report is picking up a lot of momentum in the press.

The report doesn’t reference “cure” products that are just plain stupid. But regardless, if pink campaigns have you seeing red, I suggest you consider these questions before you give, courtesy of the blog Think Before You Pink.

Lisa Biank Fasig
Lisa leads the creation of editorials and feature stories for COLLOQUY and oversees the work of contributing editors and writers. With 18 years of reporting experience, most in business and specifically consumer behavior, she is highly skilled at researching data and teasing out the trends. A background in graphic design enables her to see ideas in three dimensions and tell the story visually.


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