Please note:  I know this is old news but I didn’t catch this a year ago.  It’s October again, so I think it’s legitimate to raise the issue again. I wonder if it’s made any difference.  Comments are welcome.

October breast cancer awareness “pink ribbon” promotions have become so commonplace – and often so questionable – that last October, New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman issued best practices for such campaigns. The list:

The Best Practices are designed to increase the quality and consistency of disclosure to consumers, requiring participating companies to:

  • Clearly Describe the Promotion
    Consumers should be able to easily understand before purchasing a product key terms such as: the name of the charity; the specific dollar amount per purchase that will go to charity; any caps on the donation; whether any consumer action is required to trigger a donation; and the start and end dates of the campaign. The Best Practices also encourage companies to use a “Donation Information Label,” akin to a nutrition label, that will include this information in a clear and uniform format.
  • Allow Consumers to Easily Determine Donation Amount

In marketing their products, companies should use a fixed dollar amount – such as 50 cents for every purchase – rather than generic phrases like “a portion of proceeds” will go to charity.

  • Be Transparent About What Is Not Apparent

Companies should disclose what might not be obvious to consumers, including if there are contractual limits on the campaigns, if charitable contributions will not be made in cash, or if a fixed amount has been promised to charity regardless of the number of products sold.

  • Ensure Transparency in Social Media

Companies conducting cause marketing through social media should be equally transparent as in traditional campaigns, and clearly and prominently disclose key terms in on-line marketing.

  • Tell the Public How Much Was Raised

At the conclusion of each campaign, the website should clearly disclose the amount of the charitable donation generated.

From Schneiderman’s statement: “Our office commends Susan G. Komen For The Cure and Breast Cancer Research Foundation for signing onto these best practices, and leading the industry to greater transparency and accountability.”   The attorney general’s statement also explains, “The best practices follow a year-long review of “pink ribbon” and similar campaigns of nearly 150 companies.”

At the time of the release of these best practices a year ago, Joyce Bichler, deputy director of the Breast Cancer Action group, wrote:

“If these points sound familiar to you, you’ve probably been following Breast Cancer Action’s work and know these points are straight from our Critical Questions for Conscious Consumers and a decade of Think Before You Pink® campaigns.  Although Komen has been one of the most egregious violators in “pinkwashing” and has been non-transparent in how their donations are used, they seem to be more than willing to take credit for a campaign they have never adhered to themselves. Fancy that!

Well, we say good for us, good for you for supporting our work and helping to get our Think Before You Pink message out over the last 10 years, good for the NY Attorney General, and, wait for it, good for Komen for finally taking actionable steps to address transparency when it comes to pink ribbon marketing.

What these guidelines still don’t address are issues of accountability – not just where the money goes but what does it actually get used for? Is it going for research into environmental links to the disease? Is it going towards direct service? How much of the millions raised will actually end up helping women or making a dent in ending the breast cancer epidemic? Knowing how much and which organization is getting our money is a start, but it’s not the final answer in making sure we have all the info we need to truly leverage our donation.”


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