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BBB warns consumers of ‘pinkwashing’

ROANOKE – October has arrived and with it the colors of the fall season: orange, red, brown, and … pink. 

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many businesses are marketing “pink” products and services to support breast cancer charity groups and organizations. Sadly, some scammers and companies use this month of goodwill to take advantage of consumers’ good deeds in a practice known as “pinkwashing.”

In order to make sure donations go to the right place, the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia is advising consumers to make sure their pink purchases go towards supporting breast cancer research and awareness, and not into a personal bank account. It is important to note that the pink ribbon symbol associated with the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is not regulated by an agency and does not necessarily mean it promotes breast cancer research and/or charities.

There are many different ways companies will use the pink ribbon to raise money for research, and unfortunately some of them are deceptive. In some instances a product may feature the pink ribbon to signify a company’s overall support, but purchasing that particular product may not be part of the company’s contributions. In other cases, proceeds from the sale of a pink ribbon product will go to support breast cancer programs, but the company has placed a “cap” on their maximum donation. Once that maximum amount has been met, the company may continue to sell the product with the pink ribbon without alerting customers that no additional funds will be donated to breast cancer organizations.

Thankfully, there are many companies that sell pink ribbon products that directly contribute to Breast Cancer research and awareness. While the majority of these efforts are trustworthy, consumers should take the following steps to double check their efforts will go where they are needed:

• Ask questions. Find out what percentage of the sale price will be donated, to which charity and how the funds will be used.

• Research the business. Learn more about the business you’re purchasing from by checking their BBB Business Review at bbb.org.

• Confirm the charity’s corporate partners. Many national breast cancer charities list corporate partners and sponsors on their website. Check to make sure the business you’re purchasing from is associated with the charity.

• Consider a direct donation. Find a charity you trust at bbb.org/charity and make a donation directly.  If you donate online, be sure to print the confirmation page for your records — many donations are tax-deductible.

For more information on donating to charities, please visit www.bbb.org or contact the BBB Serving Western Virginia at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501.