Better Business Bureau Warns Consumers About 'Pinkwashing'


The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to make informed decisions about donating to breast cancer charities that businesses claim to be supporting during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

During the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month causes pink merchandising to bloom in every store corner, from ribbons to t-shirts to donation cards. Big box stores and mom and pop shops alike take the opportunity to support foundations and organizations that advance breast cancer awareness and research. Cashiers may ask if you would like to tack on a donation to a breast cancer charity as you check out your groceries. But beware—not all donations and fundraising gimmicks are what they seem.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers to make informed decisions about donating to the charities that businesses claim to be supporting. When a business claims to support breast cancer awareness but doesn’t follow through and contribute to a particular cause, it is known as “pinkwashing.” It is a kind of fraud.

According to a release from the BBB, consumers should “think before you go pink.”

Whether one is donating, shopping for “pink ribbon” merchandise, or signing up to volunteer or participate in a walk or run, the BBB recommends a few tips for the savvy citizen.

Be Aware of the Claims

If a store claims that a portion of the sales of “pink ribbon” products would go to a cancer charity, find out how much. The store may be using the fundraising gimmick strictly as a marketing opportunity and passing on very little to the charity. The BBB advises individuals to consider whether they might want to donate directly to a breast cancer-related charity.

Donate Only to Trustworthy Charities

Before participating in a run or walk for charity, do some research. Does the event directly benefit a breast cancer-related charity? Is there is a fee to participate? Is the fee, or a percentage of it, going to the charity? Is the charity itself efficiently run, and will your donation end up in the right place?

You can find reports on charities at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance ( This site examines the percentage of its money a charity spends on programs, governance, fund-raising, informational materials, and effectiveness. Charities who meet all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability can become BBB Accredited Charities.

Charity Navigator is also a good source for learning about what charities do with the money they raise. From leadership salaries to capital expenses to analysis of financial transparency, this site can help users assess whether their donations will be well spent.

The BBB’s objective is not to discourage consumers from contributing to breast cancer-related charities, but to open their eyes to potential pitfalls, and to provide tools for smart giving.

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