Promoting awareness about breast cancer is nothing to sniff at. Neither is raising millions of dollars for much needed research into a disease that has affected at least one person we know.

But this week we’re giving the Wankley to products that pinkefy themselves with all sorts of glowing promises about their commitment to breast cancer research.

Of course, corporate generosity doesn’t come free, and in most cases, if you care to track down the fine print (providing you have the inclination and a giant Magnifying glass that is, and who does?) it’s only then that your warm inner glow is snuffed by the companies’ commitment to deliver much less than they make out.

It means companies like Mount Franklin tint their label a rosey hue, wrap themselves in the pink ribbon and top it off with a pink cap on bottles of water that fill the fridges of milk bars everywhere, but if consumers care to read the fine print while sucking down their filtered water, they’ll see that it says:

Mount Franklin is donating $250,000 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation for 2009.

That’s nice and all, but it’s not much to pay for the goodwill and brand love that Coca Cola Amatil gets from buying a slice of pink.

Sure, some products give you more bang for your pink buck, but in the spirit of reading the fine print, Crikey asked readers to keep a look out for the most egregious examples of pink washing.

We asked you to name the companies and brands that you considered to be shamelessly attaching their name to the cause by painting themselves pink and promising token donations in exchange for a far larger slice of the (other) pink dollar.

Crikey reader Margaret Bozik writes:

OK, it wasn’t for real but the Chasers’ skit earlier this year of the Ku Klux Klan members wearing pink hoods to raise funds for breast cancer highlighted the obvious analogy that just because someone donates money to a good cause, doesn’t mean they are good.

I also find the Platinum Sponsorship by Macquarie Group Foundation worth of note. I have no idea how much goes to the breast cancer people but according to their website, they donate $26m to 900+ community groups worldwide per year.

This sounds quite worthy until you look at their profit (after tax) and executive remuneration.

In 2009 — their worst performance for many years — the group made $871m profit after tax and executive remuneration of key management personnel (excluding earnings on restricted profit share) totalled $29.77m. The tax deductible community donations represented less than 3% of after tax profit.

In 2008, the group made $1803m after tax and executive remuneration of key management personnel (excluding earnings on restricted profit share) totalled $110.56m. The tax deductible community donations represented 1.44% of after tax profit.

Jenny Morris writes:

Less than 20 min after reading your invitation to send in examples of pinkwashing, I came across the following. It’s from the States, but is worthy of comment, I think, because of the indeterminate “portion of the proceeds” going to breast cancer research. I wonder what portion?

Vivien Banks writes:

The McGrath pink Visa card. Now you can spend irresponsibly and stop cancer at the same time?!?

But the winner of the promised “selection of deep, dark, black Crikey merchandise” (that’d be a pair of sinister black socks with Kevin’s Rudd’s pets on them and a T-Shirt of her choosing), goes to Rhea Thrift:

The most outrageous pinkwashing has to go to Dunlop Volleys. They’re selling pink volleys at rrp $40, of which a whole generous dollar goes to breast cancer.

I still bought the shoes because they are still bright pink volleys (i.e. pretty swish). However it does kind of suck that they’re going to be making money out of this. Having gone through breast cancer with my mum (who was diagnosed last October) it’s a bit galling.

Especially considering how amazing some of the medical professionals (especially the nurses) were and the sh-t money they make. Surely they could do with a pay rise instead?

I have included pictures of the shoes for you:

View our complete Wankley winners’ archive

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off