Look for transparency in pink-related product proceeds to charities


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so pink products proliferate.

That, in itself, is a major stride, according to Carrie Glassock, director of corporate relations for the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She said that when Komen died at age 36 in 1980, “the newspaper wouldn’t print the words breast cancer, even in an obituary.

“Now, wearing pink and seeing that ribbon, it’s a badge of honor. It’s an outward show of courage, a symbol of hope instead of women feeling shameful about breast cancer or something people spoke only in whispers about,” she said.

The question for consumers, though, is whether any of those pink products benefit cancer awareness and treatment more than others. Some of those products merely help with awareness, but some provide significant benefit for outreach and a search for the cure.

When the Komen Foundation saw the growing popularity of pink, it came up with five questions consumers can ask.

“We believe very strongly in clear and consistent disclosure and 100 percent transparency to consumers,” she said. “Look at the packaging. Does it specifically disclose what nonprofit partner is benefiting and what’s the amount?”

The foundation lists on its website, www.komen.org, more than 150 partners that are marketing pink products and how much they pledge to return to the organization.

Glassock said the foundation believes that at least 10 percent of the product cost should go toward the cause. Some organizations promise much more, and some make a pledge to donate at least a minimum dollar amount.

Asked about donations straight to the organization, she said that not everyone can do that. But when they need a consumable product, looking for one that has a connection to a cancer cause accomplishes the same good.

Here are some examples:

• The National Football League partners with the American Cancer Society to remind people of the need for cancer screenings. Apparel worn at games is auctioned and proceeds benefit the cancer society’s advocacy program.

• Germ-X’s Passionate About Pink Hand Sanitizer, sold at Walmart, gives a $25,000 guaranteed donation to Komen.

• KitchenAid has Cook for the Cure pink products. The company guarantees a minimum $450,000 to Komen in this promotion, and since 2001 has given more than $9 million.

• The WWE’s Rise Above Cancer campaign includes wrestling superstars in special T-shirts and 20 percent of merchandise sales going to Komen.

• For every Yoplait pink yogurt lid returned to General Mills by June 30, the company will donate 10 cents to Komen, up to $1.5 million.

• Zumba Fitness offers 1,500 Party in Pink events in more than 25 countries. Zumba donates 75 percent of the class fees to Komen, 30 percent of sales of special apparel, and a three-year, $3 million promise grant from the events.

FIVE TESTS FOR VALUE

Here are Komen suggestions for judging a pink campaign:

—Read product packaging, promotional materials or go to the company website to evaluate credibility of the campaign.

—Is it clear how much money will go to the cause?

—Is the charity well-managed and reputable? The website should be clear on organization structure and how funds are used.

—Will the dollars go to research, education, community programs or all of them?

—Does the program support a cause you want to support?