Saturday, October 24, 2009

Breast Cancer Crusade Ad Raised My Awareness, but NOT for what you think...Read on!

Trying to Untangle the Ribbon.

Avon is one of America's great companies.
Avon is to be commended for raising a lot of money for breast cancer research.

Thinking of my family members,
friends, and all who have battled Breast Cancer, I have purchased their merchandise to support their Crusade...
This month, they are advertising a designer tote bag.
The Crusade Tote certainly raised my awareness, but not for Breast Cancer...

Are these companies who fund raise for good causes
minding their means to the ends?

Here, I am writing of Avon's crusade, but many companies today are using their brand name to sell all kinds of fund-raising merchandise to their customers.

I buy this stuff thinking it's helping.
The splash is amazing... marathons, bracelets, pens, t-shirts, tote bags ~ all raising tons of funds...
But the ripples lead to distant countries where the manufacturing happens.

After reading this ad in the campaign 22 brochure, lights and sirens went off in my head!
The adorable Reese Witherspoon is modeling a tote for $10.
She is their spokesperson.

"100% of the net profits - $6.24 will be dontated to the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade."
That means that Avon pays only $3.76 for it's manufacture.
That's what the factory gets...
What do the factory workers get paid and can they afford health screening?

That's what I want to know!

I did the math... sat down and wrote an email. No reply, then another email went out, this time to a specific employee of Avon within the foundation :

Good Morning,

Last weekend I sent an email (below) to your official address:
I would truly appreciate a response. Breast cancer has affected my circle of family and friends... some are survivors, some are dearly missed. I am very passionate about my support for this and for heart disease...the silent killer of women. The condition of women who work long hours in factories around the world for little pay is another passion of mine... I hope the Avon Foundation is selling merchandise that is fairly traded.
* * * * * *
First email:
I was looking through your Campaign 22 book and noticed the Avon Crusade Tote... that sells for $10. Although it's wonderful that $6.24 will go towards the crusade, it doesn't leave much for the production of the tote. Could you please tell me where this tote is manufactured and how much the workers are paid to manufacture it?
Are they able to afford breast cancer screening? Thank you.


"All of our non-beauty products are sourced through third-party manufacturers in 25 countries across five continents."

Avon-Corporate Responsibility:
Supply Chain
Supplier Code of Conduct
click on:
Code of Conduct

Here you will basically discover that the health and safety of their workers is determined
by the country
where the factory is located.

"Health and Safety: Suppliers must provide their workers with a clean, safe and healthy work environment in compliance with all applicable, legally mandated standards for workplace health and safety in the countries in which they operate. This includes residential facilities, if applicable. In addition, Avon encourages suppliers to strive to implement industry best practices, where applicable."

This is comforting... especially if the tote is made in China.
example: from NY Times:
"Minimum wage in this* part of China is about 55 cents an hour.

The designer of the tote, Marimekko® was also contacted; I received NO reply from them.

I sent Avon one more email to ask for further details about the workers (most likely women) who are at the factories making these totes and all the other crusade stuff... and I did not receive any more replies.

I do NOT feel all warm and fuzzy inside about these purchases.
Maybe Reese will read this and call me... what do you think?

As with many other fund-raisers, I'm beginning to think we're better off volunteering or contributing directly.


Farmgirl Cyn said...

Good for you! So often we just look at the outward appearances, and since it LOOKS good, we figure it must BE good. Not always so, as you have seen from Avon.

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

I think you are amazing. Most of us would buy the cute tote and move on. You set quite an example. I have wondered about the fact that the "pink" campaign has taken over so many products. It does leave a lot of unanswered questions. Keep us posted, you have me curious now.


Sandy said...

Maria, thank you so much for raising awareness about Avon and "pink." I personally avoid buying pink for a variety of reasons--one of which is that I don't want to think about breast cancer every time I walk into the kitchen (or any room). The biggest problem I have with all of the pink products is that companies are playing on the sympathies of customers to increase sales. It's a psychological ploy. Please see the following article about pink sales:

A number of other articles have been written recently that are bringing attention to this situation. If interested, a quick Google search will direct you to them.

One final clarification...I am definitely aware that breast cancer is real and very serious. I heartily believe in supporting breast cancer research and in making woman aware of the need for breast self-examinations, mammograms, etc. I'm just not a fan of the abundant pink products and the pink marketing strategies that accompany them.

Let us know if you hear from Reese!

Unseen Rajasthan said...

So Good for you !! I appreciate this post !!Unseen Rajasthan

Doreen said...

Awesome Maria! Not everyone would have taken the time to do this. It's so great that first, you stopped and looked beyond the surface and thought about the $10. (Most of us are generally thinking "Hey what a great deal!" and make the purchase) and second, you actually went the next step to take that all important action to do something about it. I am in the health care field and have often thought that the best thing that folks can do is make sure that all the women in their lives are doing their own regular breast exams and getting an annual breast exams by by a practitioner and an annual mammogram. I would love it if instead of or in addition to the walking campaigns (which is nice in it's own way) that they have to raise breast cancer awareness, that they had all those people commit to volunteering for an hour or two to mailing letters or calling folks to remind them to have a mammogram. It would be very powerful. What an army of volunteers they would have and how very productive would that be! Anyway, thank you again Maria for caring so much!

Barb said...

Maria, I am always wondering and fact-finding about how much money actually goes from my pocketbook directly to a charity.

As for manufacturing, I believe that most material goods are presently either manufactured by US companies in Third World situations or imported from countries with less than stellar human-rights track records. It is a growing problem, not only concerning supposed donations to charitable causes when buying certain items, but also about what we buy in our daily lives that probably comes from a foreign sweatshop. I suppose another way to look at it is that the workers may have a better standard of life than if they didn't have the job at all - however, ethically, the end hardly justifies the means. The raveled ribbon is a good illustration of the propaganda of the manufacturers and what might be the actual truth behind the advertising and the product.

Vicki said...

I had not even thought of this, but you raise a very valid concern! Thank you for your awareness and the consideration and concern you have for these workers. I think you are right. We would be better off just donating directly to the charity or fundraiser. I have so much to be thankful for, and I need to be more aware of those who do not. Thank you again, and blessings to you, sweet friend! Vicki

Maria said...

I thank all of you for these additional comments that help open my eyes even more! They are all so very true!

I like your volunteering ideas, Doreen ~ Volunteering our time seems to be the most assured way of our time and dollars going to the cause!

Jane (Frugal Fine Living) said...

Wow, I never would have thought about that. I am glad I read your post. And, I totally agree that volunteering is the probably best way to go.


Linda said...

Good for you Maria. I really hadn't thought it through in that way. You are absolutely right.
There must be other ways, like volunteering, to help.
Not sure Reese will get in touch, but you've touched all of us.

Wanda said...

Your post brings to mind so many past examples of charities and churches with their scandalous use of donations and the fact that some wrongs are not so obvious.

koralee said...

Wow...I am so impressed with your desire to follow this through! Thank you for this inforamtion...we all need to think a little harder before we just hand over the $$$$$! Blessings to you!

Amanda said...

wow!! Often we buy products, expensive products, with very little thought to the manufacturing of them. As I sit at my kitchen table I look at the things around me and wonder how many were actually made in the US, or in 3rd world countries where the people make less than what I spend on coffee in the morning.

My JCrew t-shirt was made in Brunei Darussalam (where is that??? I had to google it... near Malaysia)

My Hanes shorts were made in Costa Rica

My Motorola telephone was made in China

The mouse of my computer was made in China

My Macbook Pro was "assembled" in China

The glass vase for my fake flowers was made in China

One of cable remote was made in Mexico, my DVD remote was made in China

My four pieces of Coca-Cola decor were made in China

My adorable Boyd's teddy bear was made in China

My coasters are made in China

My Mr. Coffee coffeepot was made in China

My Oster toaster and tea pot were made in China

My Oster blender was made in Mexico

My dishtowels were made in Turkey

The ONLY thing in my kitchen made in the USA are the four candles from three different companies... Yankee, Mainstay, and Old Wliliamsburgh and my hand soap and dish soap =) At least something is... right?

Everything else is 3rd world country made... no wonder we're in a recession

Diana said...

Brava Maria,
I suspected as much not just from Avon but many companies as well. I commend you however for doing your homework. I do like your idea much better.
Purchasing a product for a cause is wonderful but at who's expense is what we should all ask!
You are one smart cookie!
Love Di