News and analysis
October 16, 2014

How Companies Can Make a Real Change in Breast-Cancer Prevention

Businesses could play a much more significant role in transforming Breast Cancer Awareness Month to Breast Cancer Accomplishment Month.

First, businesses need to practice radical transparency. Most business fundraisers for breast cancer have little or no disclosure. Too often we see “A portion of the proceeds will benefit breast cancer organizations.” What portion? Which organizations? Consumers are increasingly suspicious that vague language is a sign of a hoax. In short, they don’t buy to donate and nonprofits lose millions of dollars in potential donations.

Businesses need to be open with consumers about how and when a product donation is triggered, what portion is being donated, and how much was ultimately donated. Businesses should also disclose what past and present donations have accomplished (e.g., more mammograms, more seniors screened, more life-saving drugs delivered, etc.).

Businesses are even more tight-lipped on what’s in their products. This is another opportunity for radical transparency.

Businesses need to better disclose potential cancer-causing agents in everything from perfumes, skin-care products, cosmetics, and foods ranging from alcohol to meat and dairy. The sooner consumers know what's in the products they're buying, and the potential hazards lurking within, the better equipped they'll be to make better health decisions.

Second, businesses are underestimating or ignoring their power to do more than awareness building. Responsible and savvy businesses like Patagonia are committed to changing behaviors, not just generating awareness.

Patagonia’s annual “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign encourages customers to fix their old stuff instead of buying new gear. To help, Patagonia sold an item you won’t find at The Gap: a sewing kit. Store associates were also on hand to help with repairs.

On the health front, businesses of all sizes have a tremendous opportunity to tackle an issue that doesn't get enough attention: breast-cancer prevention.

The assumption is that woman will get breast cancer and should weigh their treatment options, including preventive mastectomies.

But breast cancer isn't inevitable.

And just as companies use their registers and products to raise awareness and money during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they can use these very same things to educate women and to encourage, reinforce, and reward positive changes in lifestyle.

Joe Waters is a writer, speaker and consultant who writes one of the web's leading fundraising blogs, Selfish Giving. He's the author of “Cause Marketing for Dummies” and “Fundraising With Businesses: 40 New (and Improved!) Strategies for Nonprofits.”