Looking for substance behind a pinkwashed veneer.

Ever heard of #pinkwashing? It’s the lesser-known cousin of whitewashing, #greenwashing and #healthwashing. Just as whitewashing is used as a cover-up to make something look better and hide flaws, pinkwashing is a similar veneer. A distraction intended to divert your attention away from less palatable facts. Something to remember, next time you see a ‘pink’ product…

The lack of substance behind these pink veneers is exposed in a Guardian column by Karuna Jaggar this weekend: Why are makeup companies able to give breast cancer patients toxic products?

The headline poses a very good question – why are they able to do this? Please do read the article – it’s well worth your time. It’s about the Look Good Feel Better program and points out how brands involved (such as Avon and Estee Lauder) give away products that contain ingredients linked to breast cancer.

The intention of the program is brilliant – so why do they use and give away products that contain chemicals linked to breast cancer? And why would companies that use such chemicals link with a cause that is at odds with their ingredient decisions? Why aren’t the genuinely-healthy companies stepping up?

For the program, the most likely answer is funding – sponsorship is so hard to find, so they’ve accepted the support of companies willing and able to give that financial and in-kind support.

For the genuinely-healthy companies, funding is also a significant barrier. For those spending so much to be sure that there is substance to their ethical claims, the cost of giving away so much product is prohibitive.

For the companies who support despite the incongruence of their chemical products, even if other motivations are at play, the answer clearly includes pinkwashing. They want to associate with a cause that helps them to look like good corporate citizens. Because they care, right? But surely, if a company was genuinely concerned about breast cancer, wouldn’t it would stop making products that contain questionable chemicals? Wouldn’t they try to stop it happening in the first place, rather than disguise and divert attention away from what they do to contribute to the problem?

Another reason that these companies can give away these products, is that they can afford to give them away. In comparison to certified organic products, chemical products are cheap as chips to make – so cheap, in fact, that their margins allow them to run multi million dollar marketing campaigns and give away products as well. What does that say about what goes into their products compared to what they charge?

Sadly, it’s also true that they can do this because people let them. If these companies were genuinely committed to helping, as a show of support to those suffering, as a move to show leadership in our industry, surely THAT is the thing to do: reformulate so that you’re not peddling chemicals that promote the disease you claim to be fighting. Why are we not demanding change?

Change in this industry this doesn’t just happen. Change is driven by people demanding better than what they’re being served up.

Don’t rely on the government, and don’t rely on the industry. As the article points out, there are industry bodies spending millions to ensure that change is not forced upon them. Why change when they don’t have to? Out of respect for their consumers? Good luck with that. If you want their respect, then you need to respect yourself enough to understand what you’re putting on your body and demand change. For as long as consumers keep buying products that contain questionable chemicals, those brands will keep making them. So stop buying them! 

If you want more than a veneer of pink, green, health, wellness or ethics in general, it’s up to you. Don’t just talk about it. Learn what you need to know to recognise the difference between a veneer and substance. Then, importantly, you need to actually change your purchase decisions so that your purchases are supporting the brands who are actually delivering on the values you endorse.

Remember – don’t knock the program. It IS a wonderful thing to help women suffering breast cancer to look good and feel better.

Instead of knocking the program, look at what YOU can do to drive change. Learn more, demand better and make sure your purchasing decisions run with the companies who are genuinely doing the right thing. And share the information, encourage others to get smarter with their purchase decisions too. In that way, you can help drive change in our industry and maybe the genuinely-healthy brands will have the resources to dedicate direct toward this worthy program.

Need a starting point?

Here’s some useful information for understanding how to read ingredients labels so that you have a better understanding about the standards you’re accepting when you make a purchase. Note: one of the founders of this company is herself a breast cancer survivor, so it is a cause close to our heart. However, as you would understand from this post, we want to be sure that our brand is ethical in every way, so this link has information related to many concerns, not solely about breast cancer.

We put a lot of effort into education, so if you’re keen to build on your knowledge about products and other things related to well-being that are founded in science rather than hysteria and fear-mongering, please do register here and an email will pop up in your inbox once every few months. Not too often – we’re not only opposed to the use of questionable chemicals. We don’t like spam either 🙂

Hope to hear from you soon!

Barbara x

Photo information: the image above is from the Guardian article (linked above) that was published online with the following in the caption: It’s nice to want to help cancer patients feel better, but not if doing so exposes them to more carcinogens or disrupts their treatment. Photograph: Alamy

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