Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pinkwashing, Greenwashing: Creating a Culture of Distrust

As holistic-minded parents many of us are now familiar with the practice of "greenwashing" or efforts by a corporation to portray themselves publicly as eco-conscious and sustainable in order to better their bottom line. Equally deceptive is the practice of "pinkwashing". According to Breast Cancer Action, the founder of the "Think Before You Pink" campaign, a "pinkwasher" is "A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease." Among the outrageous examples of pinkwashing are corporations such as Estee Lauder and Promise Me perfume who display and distribute pink ribbons to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation and yet produce products that are toxic and hazardous, containing ingredients that themselves are contributing to rising cancer rates.

Particularly egregious are the actions of Eli Lilly, the sole manufacturer of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), an artificial growth hormone found in milk which has also been linked to breast cancer. Although rBGH is banned in many countries, here in the United States it is a profit-making enterprise. But even more alarming is that not only does Eli Lilly profit from the sales of rBGH but also from the sales of cancer drugs they produce used to treat women with breast cancer. In fact, "Eli Lilly’s cancer drugs made $2,683,000,000 for the company in 2008" according to Breast Cancer Action, inspiring their "Milking Cancer" campaign. (Fortunately, organic dairy products do not contain rBGH.)

These "washing" campaigns are intended to disillusion consumers and create a belief in corporate "caring" and "community" to build brand loyalty and, ultimately, to enrich one's bottom line. The consequence, however, is devastating for our entire business and commericial sector. What such practices have created is an alarming amount of corporate and organization distrust among consumers. My generation of parents are beyond skeptical. We have little or no faith in the claims made by corporations, organizations, and governments. We scorn advertising campaigns and corporate sponsored activities. We distrust ads and ties to companies. We shun institutions who align with brands and criticize magazines and even non-profit organizations for working hand-in-hand with businesses. And this culture of distrust leaves us so cynical that we have disengaged, become less participatory and more frustrated by the world around us.

While much of the distrust is well earned, there are many corporations and organizations out there doing good work. There are still islands of integrity and transparency. There are companies who are not "washed" but who are sincerely, ethically, green and sustainable. Yes, they need to earn money to survive. Yes, they have products to sell. But they are doing so with honesty and integrity. As parents we need to discover the resources to locate these companies, organizations, and individuals. We need to be wary but open to the fact that there are still people out there trying to make an honest living. And we need to support those companies and organizations - wholeheartedly - who are truly working in our best interests.

1 comment:

  1. All I can think of to say are bad words...lol...great article and so unfortunately true.


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