Experts are warning consumers to watch out for “pinkwashing” when researching products to buy and organizations to donate to during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Pinkwashing occurs when a company or organization pretends to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces or sells products related to the disease, according to one definition of the educational organization Breast Cancer Action.

“If they’re not actually helping to be part of the solution to cancer through cancer research, or through the products they’re developing, or the services they’re providing, then they’re not helping. really solve the problem,” said Melissa Akaka, marketing expert and co-director of the Consumer Insights and Business Innovation Center at the University of Denver.

Just because you see the pink ribbon image on a product or company doesn’t mean the purchase will help a breast cancer charity, according to charity reviewer Give.org, part of the Better Business Office. The use of these images is not regulated.

“I think everyone wants to raise breast cancer awareness, but the problem is that when people take advantage of it in a way that doesn’t actually support the effort to solve the cancer problem, it becomes an ethical issue. “, said Akaka. .

Breast Cancer Action has a few questions you can ask yourself before buying or donating:

  • Does the money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs?
  • Which organization will receive the money? What will they do with the funds?
  • Is there a “cap” on how much the company will donate and has the maximum donation been reached?
  • Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk of exposure to breast cancer-related toxins?

“Consumers need to take responsibility for really tracking the money and where their money is going, looking at the ingredients that are inside the products they buy, and even the processes by which they are made,” said Akaka.

You can also check the credibility of a charity on give.org before making a donation.