Insincere sustainability claims expose companies to charges of greenwashing. Likewise, faux tie-ins to breast cancer fundraising has spawned a new term: pinkwashing.

Pink ribbons festoon the labels of a limited edition bottle of green tea. The glass container is reserved for restaurant sales; PET bottles are distributed through retail. Source: Republic of Tea.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and retail products with pink ribbon emblems are becoming more common with each passing year. Not all of them contribute to Susan G. Komen for the Cure or other charities supporting breast cancer research and public awareness, giving rise to the pinkwashing charge. So when the Republic of Tea decided to introduce the first pink-ribbon product into foodservice this year, the marketer of premium tea in tins and iced teas in bottles was sensitive to pinkwashing accusations.

“It’s not about pinkwashing for October; it’s an everyday partnership with Komen,” volunteered Marideth Post, minister of enlightment at the Novato, CA firm. At least 90% of the company’s 100 employees are women, she adds, and the Republic has been an official sponsor of Komen for the Cure since 2001. A portion of every retail and foodservice sale goes to Komen, and the limited edition Sip for the Cure PassionFruit Green Tea should push donations over the $800,000 mark.

The company’s Sip for the Cure program donates $1 from each tin of tea bags sold at retail, plus a percentage of sales from Sip ‘n Go PET bottles sold at supermarkets and the nine glass-bottled iced teas sold at restaurants and hotels.