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Pink Washing and Non Profit Hypocrisy – Is raising awareness enough?

Sasha Glenn

The concept of “pink washing” is something we all are subject to each time we walk into a supermarket and see dozens of items labeled in pink and claiming to help fight breast cancer with each purchase. Many companies have jumped on board with the Susan G. Komen foundation in efforts to raise money for “to fight breast cancer.” When you look closely at what some of these items are, an element of hypocrisy becomes clear and the question arises of whether companies participate purely as a marketing strategy and questions also surface in regards to the efficacy of the Susan G. Komen foundation itself. Many of the items adorned with the pink labeling actually contain ingredients linked to the cause of breast cancer. By having the pink symbols everywhere, awareness of breast cancer as an issue certainly does increase. However, wouldn’t it be more productive to try and eliminate cancer causing ingredients to begin with rather than just raising money for cures? Unfortunately the Susan G. Komen foundation receives quite a bit of funding from corporations and the gives rise to a conflict of interest which stops the foundation from partnering with the environmental justice movement. Watch this clip from “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” to get an idea of the issue. I really encourage watching the full length version available on Netflix.

This same concept can be applied to products which claim to be green, “greeIs raising awareness and money for cures enough? Or does this just contribute to complacency and a lack of progressive change?n washing.” People may feel their consumer choice to buy the “green” item is a moral one, however this may inhibit further reflection on the amount they consume.

In a TED talk by Dan Pallotta called “The way we think about charity is dead wrong” discusses this issue in another way. He considers the contradictions in the ways non-profits are expected to operate and how investment really works for these organizations.

Is raising awareness and money for cures enough? Or does this just contribute to complacency and a lack of progressive change?

2 Comments

  1. shin1505

    I have often wondered about the breast cancer awareness campaign. I’ve seen products in the store, read the ingredient list and thought “I’m relatively certain that the medical community is currently stating that this ingredient is a potential cause of breast cancer.” With all the money that goes towards this foundation, it makes me wonder where the money is actually going.

  2. ashleeeyvb

    I wonder where the solution needs to start: in changing the laws and regulations that are in place for who can use charity symbols, or does it start with educating the consumer to be conscious of these potential ‘scams’?

    I am also reminded of the excessive use of unregulated terms on food products that many consumers fall for. I think there is more communication about it now, but when the healthy food craze started a few decades ago, totally bogus and meaningless terms such as ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ misinformed buyers. Interestingly, according to the FDA (http://www.fda.gov/aboutfda/transparency/basics/ucm214868.htm), these terms are still unregulated.

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