Pink Up Your Portfolio

AnnaLisa is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

It’s October and if you think that black and orange are the colors of the month you’re wrong. It’s pink. Thousands of brands have gone pink to support breast cancer awareness and support for a cure. But going pink is now under suspicion as a term called “pinkwashing” comes to the public consciousness. It refers to companies supporting the cause while promoting products that are carcinogenic and also to companies that just use the pink ribbon to get concerned consumers to buy their products.

Maybe you think pink is overdone like sportswriter Peter King who decried the NFL wearing pink uniform articles during the entire month of October. He tweeted he thought one week was enough already. These articles the players wear are to be auctioned off to raise money for the American Cancer Society to use for breast cancer screenings. No surprise he was blasted with angry responses coming mostly from men. With 1 of 8 women diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime almost everyone is touched by a friend or relative’s diagnosis.

If you are a socially responsible investor and you feel an affiliation with this cause you should know who the real players are (besides the NFL) that walk the talk or race for the cure. The point being, which companies are actually seriously involved in the October campaign and how many are simply slapping pink ribbons on their labels?

At least five companies have serious contributions and connections to the cause, some longstanding. Estee Lauder (NYSE: EL)  practically spearheaded the entire corporate trend some 20 years ago with its Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign which has raised $35 million since 1992 started by Evelyn Lauder and the company is still highly involved with cancer research and support in over 70 countries. Estee Lauder and Avon (NYSE: AVP) have both been accused of pinkwashing as most cosmetics include parabens as a preservative and another to rebut. These are two of the largest and most committed corporate entities. Both companies have issued statements in the past rebutting the accusations as well as stating they use alternatives to parabens whenever possible. Avon has raised some $780 million for breast cancer organizations and like Estee Lauder has been involved since 1992. This year Avon CEO Sheri McCoy will be honorary captain of Team Avon and walking in NYC on October 20.

Ford Motor Co (NYSE: F) has had an eighteen year “Warriors in Pink” campaign, of which 100% of the net proceeds of the T-shirts and scarves and other items it sells during the month go back to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure campaign. This year one particular T-shirt’s proceeds are going to the Pink Fund, an organization that helps breast cancer patients pay bills during treatment.

A surprising company that is involved is Harley-Davidson Inc (NYSE: HOG) which has offered a Pink Label Collection of its leathers and clothing merchandise, with 66 items this year all tastefully tough, since 2010 and its proceeds in the past have supported Breast Cancer Network of Strength, with Harley’s specifically targeted to the YourShoes™ 24/7 Support Center which is staffed by breast cancer survivors willing to provide support to those undergoing treatment 24/7 every day of the year. Unlike Ford, Harley Davidson does not state on the pink products website exactly how much of proceeds go to breast cancer organizations only that a portion of the proceeds will go to these organizations.

Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL) has been involved since 2000 with the Pink Pony Fund and 10% of the purchase price of the Pink Pony products go to the Pink Pony Fund of the Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation. As of 2011 it has raised over $40 million for Breast Cancer Awareness charities worldwide. Ralph Lauren also supports a cancer care clinic in Harlem in connection with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC. This year they have over 30 Pink Pony items for sale as well as the Pink Pony tote and handbag that fashionistas drooled over last year.

There are many other seriously involved names like Macy’s with their pink pop-up stores and Safeway.  Procter & Gamble is another big corporate sponsor of breast cancer research and support organizations. You may have already received their insert of coupons for the October campaign or an email.  

What of these five companies’ performance as stocks? Mostly they’ve all been rising with the market in general. Avon had been a hated name but with a new CEO at the helm (and a 5% yield) it has been gaining adherents. Harley-Davidson has seen some pullback as it’s considered consumer discretionary as is Ford. The best stocks might be Estee Lauder and Ralph Lauren, both with yield and growth as well as strong insider ownership. But I am not going to analyze these financially. I just want those socially responsible investors to know which companies are really “tickled pink” now that October is here.

Know What You Own

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