Accusations of “pinkwashing” have recently been leveled at a partnership between breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen and “oilfield services” company Baker Hughes. To help raise awareness of breast cancer amongst its predominantly male workforce, Baker Hughes has painted 1,000 drill bits pink and is distributing them to oil and gas fields worldwide. Due to widespread concern and ongoing research into possible connections between the fracking industry and cancer, many are asking why on Earth Komen has entered into this partnership.
Here’s a conundrum that faces many organizations in desperate need of corporate sponsorship dollars: What do you do when the offer of sponsorship comes from an entity whose ethics or activities are questionable or contrary to your own? The partnership between Susan G. Komen and Baker Hughes comes just in time for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Representatives from Baker Hughes’ management have been quick to point out that breast cancer awareness “is personal to them and their employees.” The company has previously been a regular sponsor of the Komen Foundation’s Houston Race for the Cure, and in addition to the year-long distribution of the pink-painted drill bits, has made a donation of $100,000 to the Foundation. The awareness campaign’s slogan is “Doing Our Bit for the Cure.” Ba-da-boom!
Bill Debo, director of operations for U.S. land drill bits at Baker Hughes, told Fuel Fix, “Our hope is from the water cooler to the rig site to the coffee shop to everywhere, someone gets this information to their spouses, their girlfriends, their daughters so we can create awareness and end this disease forever.” Highlighting the personal nature of the issue for himself, he continued, “In 1976, when I was 17, a senior in high school, my mother died of breast cancer. So it’s really important for me to be involved in this and do what we can to end breast cancer forever and save lives.”
While the motivation is noble, a little more self-reflection is probably needed in this instance. As Rhiannon Meyers noted on Fuel Fix, most of the time those drill bits are going to be underground not reminding anyone of anything. As they raise awareness they are also helping raise extracted fossil fuels and fracking chemicals to the surfaces, which contain, um, known carcinogens. If you would like to share your thoughts on this partnership with Susan G. Komen, you can contact them here.
Photos by Baker Hughes