William P. Lauder: “Through the collective support of our employees, consumers and partners worldwide, The Breast Cancer Campaign has raised more than US$89 million globally for lifesaving research, education and medical services”

Introduction: On 1 October The Estée Lauder Companies unveiled its 2020 Breast Cancer Campaign, themed ‘It’s more than a ribbon, it unites us’, a reinforcing of the company’s commitment to creating a breast cancer-free world.

Designed to unite and inspire people around the world to create a breast cancer-free world, the Campaign was founded in 1992 by the late Evelyn H. Lauder with the launch of the now iconic Pink Ribbon.

It has since raised over US$89 million to support global research, education and medical services, with more than US$73 million funding research grants through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Martin Moodie asked The Estée Lauder Companies Executive Chairman William P. Lauder about the ambitions for the 2020 Campaign, which this year is uniting people virtually through digital events and activations to drive engagement and support.

Martin Moodie: The 2020 campaign comes amid the trauma of a devastating worldwide pandemic. How much has the crisis affected the approach to this year’s Breast Cancer Campaign?

William P. Lauder: COVID-19 has made this a year without parallel. At The Estée Lauder Companies, it has only reaffirmed our Company’s core values, part of which is our long-standing commitment to the health and wellness of people everywhere who are affected by breast cancer. Many of the campaign’s initiatives for this year have moved online to prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees, partners, and all campaign supporters. Despite all the obstacles, our mission to create a breast cancer-free world is stronger than ever.

The Estée Lauder Companies Breast Cancer Campaign Global Ambassador Elizabeth Hurley and Executive Chairman William P. Lauder light the Empire State Building in honour of The Estée Lauder Companies 2019 Breast Cancer Campaign. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for for The Estée Lauder Companies)

One of the key concerns among the medical community worldwide is that the COVID-19 pandemic has dissuaded people from visiting doctors and hospitals. Given that early diagnosis is so critical to successfully treating breast cancer, do you believe that there is an added urgency to the campaign this year?

Now more than ever, The Estée Lauder Companies champions the wellbeing of the global breast cancer community and will continue to drive funds and inspire action. We know that if breast cancer is caught early it increases the chance of survival. We encourage people to be diligent about rescheduling their health appointments as soon as they are safely able to and communicate with their doctors if they have any concerns.

Those impacted by breast cancer also face increased vulnerability during COVID-19, of course, due to their compromised immunity during treatment and their need to attend hospitals. Can the Campaign play a role in raising the spirits of sufferers worldwide and how so?

The values of our Breast Cancer Campaign have, and continue to be, about joining our global community together in unity and action. I do hope The Campaign can play a role as people touched by this disease see that the focus on it remains even amidst a global health crisis. They are part of a larger community of support and we are committed to ending breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by funding research, education and medical services.

Elizabeth Hurley and William P . Lauder mark the 2019 campaign in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for for The Estée Lauder Companies)

Tell us about this year’s tagline, It’s more than a ribbon – it unites us. What inspired this thought?

My mother, Evelyn, co-created the Pink Ribbon in 1992 and since then it has become the global symbol for breast cancer, though what is represents goes so much further – for us at The Estée Lauder Companies, it has always been more than a ribbon. It is what unites us, what brings us hope and what symbolises our fight for a cure. It is a movement, a representation of our diverse global community and honours everyone touched by this disease.

When we last spoke a year ago, the campaign had raised over US$79 million in funding research, education and medical services globally. Can you talk us through some of the achievements and landmarks since in a year that cannot have been easy for the campaign?

Through the collective support of our employees, consumers and partners worldwide, The Breast Cancer Campaign has raised more than US$89 million globally for lifesaving research, education, and medical services, with more than US$73 million funding 293 medical research grants through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), the highest-rated non-profit breast cancer organisation in the US, also founded by my mother Evelyn in 1993.

The BCRF research The Campaign supports in seven countries across the globe spans the entire continuum of cancer research – from basic biology of how healthy cells go awry and become cancer, to developing new diagnostic tests and new treatments, to research to improve a patient’s quality-of-life both during and after treatment. In addition, The Breast Cancer Campaign continues to mobilize employees worldwide to positively impact communities and unite in action to support more than 60 breast cancer organisations around the world.

William P. Lauder reinforces the commitment to a world without breast cancer (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Estée Lauder Companies)

For all the reasons I have mentioned, the 2020 campaign has added poignancy. What are your key ambitions and motivations for this year’s campaign?

Our goal this year, as in every year, is to bring us closer to a world without breast cancer. As long as breast cancer remains the most common cancer in women worldwide, our dedication is unwavering, uniting our global community in action. There are concerns that funding will be impacted and like many sectors of the world’s economy, breast cancer research faces a cut this coming year. Now more than ever we must continue to raise funds in support of research, education and medical services.

Sum up please for me what this year’s campaign means to you in terms of those aspirations your mother Evelyn H. Lauder had in mind when she set off on this journey 28 years ago.

My mother always said that if we were going to find a cure for breast cancer, it would not be by one person, but rather through the collective efforts of a group. She would be so proud of how far we have come: In the US breast cancer mortality rates have decreased by 40% since the late 1980s and breast cancer is now spoken about more openly. Yet it remains that every 15 seconds, somewhere in the world, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. We are steadfast in uniting people in our common goal: it’s #TimeToEndBreastCancer.

*This feature was first published in The Moodie Davitt Magazine for October; click here for details.