Self Destruction: Komen and the Pink Fracking Drill Head

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October 8, 2014; Jezebel

Sometimes we wonder if the leaders at some organizations are purposely trying to shed their supporters. One way to do this is to provocatively present yourself in ways that will alienate a portion of your base and then plead wide-eyed surprise at the reaction. NPQ has written repeatedly about the lack of integrity at Susan G. Komen, focusing mainly but hardly exclusively on its defunding of Planned Parenthood and the subsequent fallout.

Now, Jezebel writes that to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Susan G. Komen foundation will collaborate with fracking company Baker Hughes, which has promised this year to paint 1,000 drill bits pink and distribute them to remind all their fracking partners of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening, and education to help find the cure.

Fracking, of course, releases cancer-causing chemicals into the water supply. This sparked the headline for the Jezebel piece, “Komen and Fracking Company Team up to Cause and Cure Breast Cancer.”

This is now the second year that Baker Hughes has provided support for Komen, but this year, having painted the drill bits in the branded pink to match Komen, their tagline is “Doing our bit for the cure.”

This is just the latest in ill-advised, constituency-dividing actions taken by Komen. Breast Cancer Action hailed the partnership as “the most egregious example of ‘pinkwashing’ they’ve ever seen” and sarcastically lauded Komen and Baker Hughes for “their ingenious pinkwashing profit cycle, whereby Baker Hughes helps fuel breast cancer while Komen raises millions of dollars to try to cure it.”

Sandra Steingraber, PhD, an expert in environmental factors that contribute to reproductive health problems and environmental links to cancer, and a cancer survivor wrote in her essay on EcoWatch, “Susan G. Komen hands out pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness, and Baker Hughes fracks. So, there you have it: a pink, fracking, drill head.”—Ruth McCambridge


  • Deborah J. Cornwall

    It’s tragic to think that the symbolism of “pink” which Komen helped to inculcate into our culture has become–even in Komen’s eyes–more important than the substance of preventing, controlling, and fighting cancer. Komen’s apparent death wish is tragic. It distorts the true message that we need to convey to broader society about the need to join together not by wearing pink, but by taking meaningful action to increase research funding, reduce carcinogens in our environment, improve cancer screenings, and support the millions of citizens who are engaged in fighting cancer on a daily basis.

  • Anita Janke

    There is clearly a conflict of values creating a social responsibility issue. This can’t turn out good for either organization and we may be reading about it in the next edition of Public Relations: A Values-Driven Approach.

  • Andrea Magnuson

    Did anyone at Susan G. Komen Foundation do any research about fracking before becoming “married” to Baker Hughes? As a breast cancer survivor myself, I’m very disappointed. Are we not noticing the throngs of people who are developing cancer? My banking checks are Susan G. Komen-themed. I’ll be changing them as soon as I can.