So this isn’t a new topic. But something near to my heart since I work at the American Cancer Society High Plains Division. Pinkwashing is the same as greenwashing or any other campaign where brands are taking advantage of publicity regarding breast cancer and breast cancer research.  I think this quote explains it very well:

But when she began researching which charity to support, Jarmoska felt overwhelmed. Numerous organizations sponsored walks, runs and bike trips. Even more were pitching pink-ribbon products and promotions with a promise that a portion of sales would support a breast-cancer cause. Jarmoska was stunned by the profusion of pink cosmetics, jewelry, teddy bears, blush wines, blenders, candles and paper products. “I realized breast cancer had become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns,” she says. “With so many companies involved, my suspicion was that the motive was not always entirely pure.””

As you can see it’s not only bad for the charity involved, but for the customer.  I’m not blaming the non profit here, I just want to point this out to people. Just because you buy a pink hairdryer doesn’t mean that 100% of the proceeds go to the non profit quoted on the box. Or sometimes people assume the American Cancer Society gets the money! But in reality we rarely partner around pink products.  So buyers beware!

Here are some examples from a recent Austin American Statesman Article:

Pink Oakley Sunglasses: $180.00 w $20.00 from each sale going to the Young Survival Coalition

Ella Moss World Tank: $49.00 w $5.00 going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Avon Crusade Tote Bag: $10.00 w $10.00 of the Net going to Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.

Give Hope Jeans: $88.00 w 100% up to $200,000 going to Living Beyond Breast Cancer.


  1. Great post, David! I share your concern with cause marketing, and especially around breast cancer, as it seems the most popular cancer-related cause. And, cancer also being near and dear to my heart and life, I often find it frustrating. I always encourage friends to look into the financials of where their money goes when they support a non-profit or buy a cause-related item, but working in an NPO, it’s hard to know where to draw the line with how to talk to friends and not push them to the org I work for all the time.

    But before cancer was my daily cause, I too, succumbed to doing one of those “other” Pink walks, and now that I’m on the inside I feel sad that I spent a lot of time and effort raising money that didn’t do as much good as it could have. Think Before You Pink, when it comes to supporting breast cancer events and promo items!

  2. David,

    I like your post and was looking to you to drive the point home even more directly:

    “Buyer beware! Cause related marketing is MARKETING by a for-profit, which means they have a profit motive. Read the fine print to see where your money is going. A charity (ACS or another (c)3) might be the beneficiary, but “raising awareness” is sometimes the stated benefit.”

    Colors – pink and red – have been effectively claimed by charities. They are successful, which also means they have created a brand that guerilla marketers can leverage to their advantage. I agree with you that it’s totally disengenuous, and I’d suggest that this is one by-product of capitalism. Op cit “profit motives.”

    Thank you for launching an important conversation.


    John Marchiony
    New Enterprise Factory
    Mission-Driven Revenue Generation
    *We find the profits in non-profits*

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