This October, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the NFL has been selling pink merchandise to help fund breast cancer research. A noble act, or so the NFL would want us to believe. Recently there’s been a cloud of suspicion over them, with people questioning just how much of the money raised was actually going to breast cancer research.
Business Insider has reported that a shocking 8.01 percent of pink gear is actually donated to cancer research, with 37.5 percent going to the manufacturer, 3.24 percent going to the administration at the American Cancer Society, 1.25 percent going to the NFL and 50 percent going to the retailer. Sadly, the NFL isn’t nearly the most guilty perpetrator.
The “Think Pink” movement was originally started in a time when many people doubted that breast cancer was even a real disease. Its aims involved generating public awareness and fighting for research, funding and support, until the Susan G. Komen organization realized the pink ribbon brand’s economic potential. Since then it has turned into a mere trendy symbol of support manifested by various companies as a marketing tool for increasing profits. Now groups like Breast Cancer Action are fighting not only for victims of the disease, but also to end the corporate exploitation of those patients. As displayed on Breast Cancer Action’s website, research by Cone Communications, a Boston consulting firm, found that 79 percent of consumers would be likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause with all other things remaining equal. It’s not surprising, then, that raising prices in the name of cancer would be a rampant and successful plight of corporations.
Ironically and even worse, some of the companies who are allegedly “working for a cure” are actually selling products that contain the chemicals known for increasing the risk of the disease. According to Breast Cancer Action’s site, Procter & Gamble, Cleaning for a Reason and Walmart are collaborating in the promotion of limited edition pink Swiffer products, which are likely to contain phthalates, synthetic musk and petroleum products, all of which have been linked to cancer. Procter & Gamble is also giving away a free pancake breakfast with any $30-or-more purchase of cleaning products such as Tide, Downy, Gain, Febreze and Cascade. The list of pink-washing corporations using breast cancer-linked chemicals goes on and on, including Ford, Yoplait, KFC and even Susan G. Komen.
This past summer, CNN reported that Kids Wish Network is one of America’s worst charities. Each year, the foundation raises millions in the name of dying children and donates only 3 cents of every dollar to helping kids. Over the past decade, Kids Wish Network funneled $110 million in donations to the foundation’s corporate solicitors, with an additional $4.8 million going to the charity’s founder and his consulting firms. Collectively, America’s worst charities devote less than 4 percent to actual aid and have paid solicitors nearly $1 billion over the past 10 years.
The bottom line is, as consumers and benefactors, we have to do our research. The finding that 79 percent of consumers are likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause could be used to profit the already rich; this is unfortunate. However, it’s great that in general, Americans are willing to pay a couple extra dollars when they believe those dollars will be used to help someone in need. If we are going to make charity-based decisions, we have to learn how to distinguish between good and bad charities — between charities like Habitat for Humanity or the Boys and Girls Club, which are truly dedicated to helping those in need, and charities like the Kids Wish Network and Susan G. Komen, which exploit both consumers and the needy. So do your research or just donate directly, not through the purchase of a can of Coca-Cola, to ensure that your extra couple dollars aren’t going into the already fat wallets of profiteers.