A company that makes drill bits for fracking is painting them Susan G. Komen Pink — that specific intense shade that has become fixed in the public eye as the color of breast cancer research. Note, though, that this is entirely an initiative by the drill bit company, and there doesn’t seem to be a specific partnership, and the company doesn’t seem to be donating any money to breast cancer research, but are just painting all their bits a different color than usual, and tossing in a breast cancer pamphlet.
This is a classic example of pinkwashing. The company isn’t doing anything substantial to help research, but are just slapping a coat of paint on their product — and even there it’s nothing different, apparently they painted them gold before, and are now simply swapping colors. This is also a company that from some of the most environmentally damaging activities ever, fracking, an activity that makes extensive use of carcinogens. I’m having a hard time imagining a more superficial and less self-serving way to try and improve your public image.
Nick Gotts says
I’m just surprised it’s not green.
I think you mean more self-serving way but, nonetheless, how cynical can they get?
It looks to me like the linked site thinks it’s wrong for a company that uses carcinogens to support cancer research. But Baker Hughes does seem to be sincere, and does seem to be donating.
twas brillig (stevem) says
Then case closed, Reminders are all that’s necessary, and are the most important aspect of cancer research: REMIND people that Cancer Is An Issue.
It is simply the illusion of caring, while actually doing nothing about it. oh gosh, I gotta rant: It is no different than PRAYING for someone’s recovery from a major trauma. It shows one CARES while doin nuthin about it. So Baker Hughes is showing that they care (by pinking their f_ bits) while actually doing very little.
If Baker Hughes actually gives a shit, they should donate money to actual cancer research rather than “awareness” campaigns.
This morning on my regional radio news: Pennsylvania’s DEP is bringing criminal charges against a fracking company, and seeking to impose a record fine.
The company’s response?
In other words, they’re doing it for the
I suppose it makes sense that a state environmental agency would be staffed by a bunch of attention-whoring SJWs, right?
It is kind of striking to note the similarities between the language used by a possibly criminally liable corporation and the language used by trolls mounting harassment campaigns.
Usernames! → smart says
Folks, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “FRACKING” DRILL BIT: whoever did this doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Fracking (fluid cracking) occurs after the borehole has been drilled – the drill bit isn’t even in the hole when fracking begins.
* Shaped charges punch holes in the concrete casing and into the surrounding rock (usually shale, which has nice cleavage)
* Fracking fluid (water + sand or grit + chemicals) is pumped at extremely high pressure into the hole.
* The fluid flows into the fissures formed by the shaped charges and forces the cracks open
* The sand/grit keeps the cracks from closing again
* The chemicals do a myriad of things: kill bacteria, lower the viscosity of the oil, etc. They are also highly toxic.
That being said, fracking is bullshit because
* Much of the water is taken out of the water cycle “forever” (in human terms)
* The water that is recovered is toxic
* The whole process allows (and encourages) continued burning of fossil fuels, contributing to catastrophic global climate change.
* It makes a lot of money for the 1% (and the 0.01%…)
So it isn’t going away anytime soon.
Seriously, Usernames, it’s okay to talk about a “fracking drill bit” when what’s meant is the bit that’s used to drill the well that is then used for fracking. Using that phrasing, “fracking drill bit,” is not an indication that the speaker knows nothing about fracking, it’s an indication that they’re aware that they’re talking to a lay audience. Might as well take issue with using the word “fracking” instead of “hydraulic fracturing”. Or pick nits about whether “global warming” is a better or worse term than “climate change.”
Oh, but they’re doing something very important for cancer research: providing research subjects. Where would clinical research be without patients?
The linked story says
…. so there is a partnership. The association may seem wrong, but it exists.
http://ww5.komen.org/bakerhughes.aspx also claims it.
If the problem is that Komen has lost focus, or that it is only about awareness, not about actual research, I can’t argue that. But Komen seems to be active in fighting cancer – I say seems – and donating money is not automatically a waste.
As for Hughes, they are donating and are doing something. Painting the bits pink is fairly trivial, and ceremonial, but it does raise awareness. I don’t see it as their only effort. Folks seem to be saying that Hughes did something completely pointless that was somehow meant to have great effect. I see it as an internal company awareness effort, for employees to learn from. Yeah, a few roughnecks are going to be befuddled, but they need to learn about breast cancer, too.
I see the linked article saying that fracking is bad, but I don’t see Hughes deserving all the flak for the pink bits. I don’t care for the Komen foundation, myself, but they do seem to be a good a place to donate as any, and Hughes is donating.
I don’t support fracking but I do support Susan G. Komen. First, they do fund research (mostly I think in the form of small grants for researchers early in their careers) and second, public awareness is a very important tool in curing breast cancer. Like most cancers the only really effective cure is early diagnosis followed by surgery and early diagnosis requires public awareness. Also this Baker Hughes effort seems less cynical than a lot of partnerships SGK Foundation has entered into in that the Baker Hughes donation is not contingent on anyone buying these drill bits.
Remember when the Komen foundation stopped giving grants to Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings?
They reversed course after donations plummeted, but it was clear at that point that the Komen foundation is, at heart, a socially conservative organization, perhaps even reactionary. They have ethical problems with abortion, but none with fracking.
They’re not worthy of your support.
CaitieCat, getaway driver says
Komen puts 40% of its revenue into ‘awareness’, on top of 11% for admin, and 10% for ‘fundraising’. About 20% goes to research.
There are many better orgs to donate to.
Socio-gen, something something... says
As CaitieCat said, the percentage spend on research by Komen is low — and has been dropping. Via Philanthropy.com from 2012:
There are much better places to donate if you want to fund research, including the the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which directs 91% of donations to research and awareness, and only 2.5% to administrative expenses and 6.2% to fundraising expenses, according to Charity Navigator.
I’m with SallyStrange. If I want to contribute money to cancer research I give directly to a university program that is actually doing the research.
I was suspicious of the Komen foundation long before the Planned Parenthood debacle. Several of the teachers in our school ran in the annual race and tried to strong-arm everyone into contributing. I checked out the foundation and found that way too much of the money raised went to their executives, not to the research.
I declined to sponsor the teachers, and instead made a small contribution to the cancer center of the local research university. I apparently made the right call.
It isn’t that difficult to research foundations that are associated with medical issues. If people are actually being helped by the foundation and most of the money goes to research, patient education, etc., it’s a worthy foundation. If people are obviously getting rich from donated funds and a very small percentage of the money goes to research or helping patients, I stay clear of it.
Lately, the best way to help women who need mammograms and other medical care is to contibute directly to Planned Parenthood.
Charity Navigator rating
Lynna, OM says
Here’s the Board of Directors of the tracking company, Baker Hughes:
Mostly older white men, two older white women.
According to Business Week, the CEO is paid about $8,990,000 per year.
Company revenues were about $22.364 billion in 2013.
They’ve had some trouble with the law:
Bernard Bumner says
I’m not familiar with the charity, but does it really look that bad?
If you extract the same figures for Komen from Charity Navigator, then they show 82.8% of donations expenditure on progam expenses, 6.3% on administrative expenses, and 10.7% fundraising expenses.
It doesn’t look too bad, many charities have much higher administrative and fundraising expenses as proportion of revenue. They appear to be providing funding for a lot of practical measures aimed at reducing the impact of the disease; education, screening, and treatment programs. They are transparent that research is not their primary area of funding.
The function of Cancer charities should not only be to research the diseases – ideally, there should be a diversity of activities in the voluntary/charity sector, including treatment, support, and education. These are usually not well provisioned by the state.
Lynna, OM says
One member of the Board of Directors, Greg Brenneman, used to work at Bain. There’s a connection with Mitt Romney.
@18 Bernard Bumner
I don’t think Komen is bad at all. Of course if you want your charity dollars to go exclusively to supporting cancer research rather than community outreach programs or promoting public awareness then there probably are better organizations to donate to.
I question the utility of vague “awareness” campaigns.
Is there anyone not aware of breast cancer at this point?
The Mellow Monkey says
Bernard Bumner @ 18
I’m familiar with the shittiness of the group, but I’m willing to accept that there are people who don’t know why it receives criticism. And if they don’t know why, how could they find out? Would it be difficult to find detailed criticisms? So I googled “why is komen terrible.”
The first five hits I got:
How The Susan G. Komen Foundation Lost Its Way
Susan G. Komen: Always the Worst
Susan G. Komen — A Bad Charity Long Before Their Planned Parenthood PR Nightmare
Why did Komen for the Cure give Nancy Brinker a 64 percent raise?
I guess it’s not that hard to find detailed criticisms after all.
Socio-gen, something something... says
Bernard Bummer @ 18:
True. However, the difference lies in what is lumped in under the heading “Program Services”
Let’s compare: In 2012, according to their 2012-2013 combined financial statement [PDF], the BCRF’s “Program Services” awarded $45 million in research grants (88% of overall donations) and spent just 3% to “raising awareness.” Contrast that with Komen’s “Program Services” in which less than 20% of their overall donations are given to research (which was $63.3 million in 2011, as it says in the quote in my comment @ 14).
The Mellow Monkey says
Excuse me: that’s my first four hits in #22. I seem to have lost one during my cutting and pasting.
To add to mellow monkey (and since this is a science blog)
Gregory in Seattle says
Mind you: some of the actual partnerships are just as horrific. Anyone remember Komen’s partnership with KFC?
CaitieCat, getaway driver says
Much appreciated, the link and citation support for my hasty comment earlier. I was on the way to the legal aid office for my disability application appeal, and on my phone with a very limited data plan, so I went with the last numbers I could remember seeing, and I’m glad they were pretty close. Thanks to all who added links and citations.
Bernard Bumner says
Yes, but that is really a difference in emphasis.
@ The Mellow Monkey,
Of course I looked at some of those things – that wasn’t what I meant. I wasn’t clear, but actually I meant I’m not familiar with their charitable activities and what they actually spend money on. I was only posing the question about their finances, and they don’t look that bad when compared to many other charities.
The salary to the CEO seems like something of a red herring – remuneration, even in the charity sector, is commonly paid in proportion to turnover. I also instinctively feel uncomfortable with the idea, but if that is the going rate then I’m sure that there will be analysts queuing up to tell us why the sector would collapse without those levels of pay. Actually, I found articles making the defence that it wasn’t excessive in the sector for that size of revenue.
The idea of Komen aggressively protecting their brand is not so much a question of right or wrong – clearly that is their right. But it is shitty behaviour, and bad publicity. I wonder how much revenue they protected versus that lost through reputational damage. Still, I do wonder what the size of that potential loss of revenue was where people were consciously aping the brand – it is very sad, but charity fundraising is massively competitive. You’d always hope that large organisations would take a common sense approach before legal action was threatened, but presumably even charities have to draw lines somewhere. If they have trademarks, then they also have to protect them in order to maintain them, and I’m not qualified to assess the cost to a charity of not maintaining a brand.
Like I say, it seems like shitty behaviour to me. No argument there.
The Mellow Monkey says
From Gregory in Seattle‘s link in #26:
So to recap:
Susan G. Komen For the Cure focuses on “awareness”, screening, and corporate partnerships rather than actually putting much effort into the cause they cite in their very name. Other charities that say they’re working for a cure will be sued out of existence, to protect the trademark Komen has on the name For the Cure which is, in fact, not really being used towards finding a cure. A million dollars a year from donations are spent on funding these attacks on other charities. The science that might save lives, the improvements in life and nutrition that could help vulnerable populations, and a whole lot of what we know about carcinogens is roundly ignored, in order to improve those sweet, sweet corporate partnerships.
Komen is in the business of sustaining itself and protecting its brand and is, in fact, doing measurable harm in these pursuits.
John Horstman says
We should be careful to distinguish between donating money to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and donating to breast cancer research, as Komen spends more money on paying its very-wealthy board and CEO and corporate promotion events and brand advertising than cancer research or treatment. According to their own figures for 2009-2010, 21.3% was spent on administrative overhead, reported segmented between administrative overhead for the organization at large and administrative overhead for fundraising events, while 20.9% actually went to cancer research programs. Additionally, 39.1% went to “Public health education”, which in this case is a categorically dishonest euphemism for brand promotion for Komen and its corporate partners, including for-profit hospitals and clinics that perform breast cancer screenings, which do not, of course, actually prevent cancer (and as noted above may not even be particularly effective at identifying cancer). Less than half the money they raise goes to help anyone with cancer or who might develop cancer.
Donate to better charity organizations. Hell, donate directly to research universities. Don’t donate to Komen; its primary purpose is to make money for the wealthy and pinkwash corporate images.
Dalillama, Schmott Guy says
‘Baker Hughes’ is not capable of being sincere, being a legal construct without sapience or emotion. I do not believe for a moment that the decision makers at Baker Hughes are in any way sincerely concerned about anything other than a potential slick PR move to try to burnish their image. Nor, incidentally, am I impressed by a $100,000 donation from a company or individuals with as much wealth as these assholes control. Furthermore, pissant philanthropy to blind people to the fact that you’ve ravaged infrastructure, devastated the environment, and destroyed thousands or tens of thousands or even millions of lives has been a favorite of shitheads with more money than morals since the days when the Legions marched the Via Domata to battle the Gauls, and hasn’t gotten any better flavor in the intervening millenia.
Also, fuck the Komen Foundation as well; they’ve done nothing to convince me that the internal problems leading to that fiasco where they gave Karen Handel the helm, and shit like partnering with the likes of Baker Hughes, especially for such piddling amounts of money, is not helping even a little bit.
Dalillama, Schmott Guy says
Nor is all this other shit about Komen that everyone posted while I was typing.
The NFL goes pink for October, but gives a tiny amount to charity.
Yes … painting it pink just screams: harmless. The Hello Kitty sticker also helps.
The question isn’t so much awareness of the existence of breast cancer but awareness of the symptoms, awareness of how to navigate the medical system to get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment (which in some medically underserved communities can be a huge problem) and awareness of community resources available for both medical and non medical expenses that breast cancer patients may face. You should go to their web site and take a look at some of the grants they fund.
for a PR campaign, that’s fairly affordable. And yeah, that’s pretty much what it is: PR, to make themselves look less cancerous.That’s become the prime purpose of Komen: making things pink as part of PR campaigns to increase sales and/or improve image, at comparatively little cost to the involved businesses.
And that’s aside from the part where what little does get donated ends up not really being used to help fight breast cancer.
Komen is a lot like PETA in my book. Sure I agree with their basic principles, but they have both lost site of the goal and instead focus on publicity. The brand has become more important than the stated mission or the organization.
It does make me sad with Komen because when my mom was a survivor she bought in heavy to the pink ribbon shit. Hats, shirts, pins, teddy bears, you name it. I have some good memories of walking with her in the Komen walk for the cure. It meant a lot to her and I didn’t think much about it at the time. She died in 2006 and I wonder what she would think of them now. She is the first one that taught me to question things, but could get caught up in the dogma of beliefs (i.e. god and republicans) so I don’t know if she would have seen through this facade.
That $100,000 donation from the fracking guy will pay about one-fifth of an executive salary at Komen. That org is a bad, bad charity, and they rake in the dough with their manipulative tactics. I tend to be deeply suspicious of “charities” with very high exec salaries — watch out for exploitation of donors, clients, and low-level employees. Goodwill Industries is another one.
And, I hate pink, anyway. Always have done.
Does anyone else think the hot pink tipped drill looks like the monster in a horror movie?