Straight from the “Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery” Department

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By Joyce Bichler, Breast Cancer Action Deputy Director

Last week New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced, to great fanfare, guidelines for best practices in breast cancer cause marketing (finally!).

And in equally great fanfare, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation touted their ‘sign-on’ with the Attorney General. These “best practices” came after  a yearlong review of pink ribbon campaigns found that consumers often don’t have sufficient information to understand where the money from their purchases is really going.  We could have told them that 10 years ago—and we did!

Best practices the NY Attorney General recommends include these disclosures to consumers:

  • Clearly describe the promotion including a “donor information label” that includes the name of the charity, the specific dollar amount per purchase that will go to the charity, and any caps on the donation.
  • Allow consumers to easily determine the donation amount.
  • Disclose any contractual limits or caps to the amount donated.
  • Tell the public how much was raised at the conclusion of the campaign.

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.

We hope these best practice guidelines open the door for other states to not just issue voluntary guidelines but to require that consumers are provided with transparency AND accountability information, and not just a pink ribbon slapped onto a product.  Everyone needs to know where, what, and how their money is going to be used when they buy a product manufactured by a company that is using breast cancer to increase sales – and to make their purchasing choices accordingly.

Obviously, we need more than recommended best practices, and we also know that if shopping could cure breast cancer, it would have been long cured by now, but this is at least a start.  Ten years ago, we were the ONLY organization questioning breast cancer cause marketing and working to educate consumers.  With each year, and each successful Think Before you Pink campaign, we’ve seen a growing wave of consumers who are actively questioning and demanding more accountability before they buy ‘pink.’ We are thrilled to see so many other organizations, groups, consumers now getting on the accountability bandwagon. There is still so much more to do but it’s so good that so many are now asking questions about who’s really cleaning up on pink ribbon campaigns.

Know that Breast Cancer Action will always be working and pushing the envelope in educating and advocating for real change in breast cancer cause marketing and working to address and end the breast cancer epidemic in real and actionable ways as we have for the past 22 years.


  1. Posted October 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Joyce. My thoughts exactly.

    This action is a start to encourage best practices, transparency, and accountability on the part of the donating companies. I commended the NYAG for this effort. But we also need best practices, transparency, and accountability on the other side of the cause-marketing equation as well.

    How are the recipients of donor funds spending the money? What are the demonstrated results of these efforts? How, in the end, do these efforts impact the breast cancer epidemic at large?

    Out of curiosity, why wasn’t BCAction part of the task force to design recommendations since you’ve been on the case for over ten years? I’d love to see your group help the states to develop more rigorous standards.

    Gayle Sulik

  2. Sandy
    Posted January 9, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Interesting take, Joycie

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