We're more than halfway through October and the month -- at times -- has been a sea of pink mixed in with fall colors. That's because it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and everyone from NFL players to retail stores are wrapping themselves in the pink awareness ribbons.
In recent years some companies have been accused of cashing in on the cause, suggesting that a purchase of one product or another would support the cause of breast cancer research. In some cases it was shown little or no money went to a charitable cause.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a set of "best practices" to promote transparency in charitable "cause marketing" campaigns, which he says is a growing billion-dollar-a-year industry in which companies advertise that the sale or use of a product will result in a charitable contribution.
What does showing a pink ribbon mean?
The standards follow a year-long review of "pink ribbon" and similar campaigns of nearly 150 companies. While these campaigns have resulted in substantial donations, the Attorney General's review found that consumers often do not have sufficient information to understand how their purchases will benefit charity.
"National Breast Cancer Awareness Month continues to increase our understanding of breast cancer and raise funds for the charities fighting it. Consumers who intend to support this worthy cause deserve to know that their purchases do the good promised by the pink ribbon campaigns," Schneiderman said. "These best practices, agreed to by the nation's largest breast cancer charities, will help ensure that cause marketing campaigns provide the benefit that's expected, and that consumers, charities, and above all, the women and families affected by this devastating disease are protected."
The best practices require companies clearly and prominently disclose key information about each campaign, including the specific amount that will be donated to charity from each purchase. Companies using ribbons and similar symbols on products must make clear to consumers if a purchase will trigger a donation, or if the symbols are used merely for awareness of a cause.
The best practices are also designed to ensure more transparency in social media campaigns, in which companies promise donations if consumers agree to "like" or "follow" them or their products. Schneiderman said the nation's two largest breast cancer charities, Susan G. Komen For The Cure and Breast Cancer Research Foundation, are showing their commitment to transparency by adopting the best practices.
"Our office commends Susan G. Komen For The Cure and Breast Cancer Research Foundation for signing onto these best practices, and leading the industry to greater transparency and accountability," Schneiderman said. "These guidelines will bolster public confidence in cause marketing and hopefully will result in more money going to fighting this horrible disease."
The five-point best practices are: