My English muffin came with a pink ribbon this morning. Seems the folks at Thomas’ are doing a promotion with the Susan G. Komen Foundation — an effort that will contribute $100,000 to the popular charity while also supporting breast-cancer awareness.
The proliferation of pink ribbons in product-marketing campaigns has me wondering if “strategic philanthropy” may have gone too far. It has me wondering if charitable donations have become just another way to buy consumer preference — nothing more than an inexpensive advertisement, albeit one that helps folks in need.
Why would I question such a benevolent campaign? Isn’t that a classic win-win proposition for marketers and cancer research? Not necessarily.
Breast-cancer is the hot charity these days, and with good reason. The disease is on pace to kill over 40,000 Americans this year, almost all of them women. And because women buy some 80% of groceries and packaged goods, they’re the targets of the the pink-ribbon promotions. Companies across the land are hitching their wagons to “pink” — because it sells. That’s fine, but I’m troubled that so much of the cash flowing from strategic philanthropy/marketing programs is finding its way to one charity niche when others deserve consideration.
Would Alzheimer’s research sell English muffins? Maybe, but not like the “power of pink.” Lou Gehrig’s disease? The Lupus foundation? Don’t think so. It’s all about what the market will embrace, or I’m just way too cynical.
Husted & Allen looked at the issue on a more macro level versus one specific charity. I like the way they present the central question:
“Increasingly research in the field of business and society suggests that ethics and corporate social responsibility can be profitable. Yet this work raises a troubling question: Is it ethical to use ethics and social responsibility in a strategic way? Is it possible to be ethical or socially responsible for the wrong reason?”
It’s Monday. So maybe I’m just cranky. But I think the authors raise a point worthy of more discussion. It’ll be on the agenda of my Ethics class this week at Kent State. But I’m betting it gets little consideration in the corporate boardroom.