PINKWASHING: HOW DO WE DO BETTER?
October has arrived, which means we’ll be seeing plenty of changing leaves, dipping temperatures, Halloween decorations, and pink ribbons. Yes, pink ribbons. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Enter the concept of pinkwashing, a topic that receives limited media coverage. About a year ago, however, the NFB released a documentary titled Pink Ribbon, Inc. that took a closer look at how breast cancer fundraising and awareness campaigns have essentially become a PR tactic for companies. The efforts made to hold events and raise money for research has been criticized for being counter-productive, even ironic in certain cases. Cosmetic companies such as Revlon and Estee Lauder market pink ribbon products, but include ingredients that are known for being carcinogenic. Large-scale fundraising events often have significant environmental ramifications simply from the amount of litter and trash generated. Can these negative impacts be justified? Even fundamentally, is it okay for companies to profit from cause marketing?
It’s easy to say, “It’s for a good cause, so every bit helps”. But does that still hold weight when actual contributions towards these causes are miniscule compared to the publicity and profits that companies make? For example, back in 2008, Yoplait held a breast cancer awareness campaign called “Put a Lid On It”, and for every lid mailed in the company would donate 10 cents to the Komen Foundation. Over a four-month campaign, assuming you consumed one container of yogurt a day, you would be contributing approximately $12 in total. Meanwhile, their products contained rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), a chemical that is linked to breast cancer.
Since then, Yoplait has stopped using rBGH. A small step forward is still a step, but can’t we do better? Are companies really making a difference, or just cashing in? Whether its pinkwashing, greenwashing, or cause marketing in general, the exploitative nature of such tactics is hard to deny. We need to ask: how do we do better? How do we shift the focus away from “cause marketing” as temporary projects that brands take on, to long-term philanthropic contribution as part of a company’s core strategy?
[Post by Anny Chien, N/A Social Media Intern]