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William P. Lauder, Elizabeth Hurley Look Back on 30 Years of Breast Cancer Activism

Since the campaign’s inception 30 years ago, it has raised more than $100 million for breast cancer research, Lauder told WWD Beauty Inc.

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. is celebrating 30 years of activism with a pledge toward the future.

Following three decades of Lauder’s Breast Cancer Campaign — and 29 since the inception of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation — it is pledging $15 million over five years to research the health, comorbidities and the biology of breast cancer in Black women, who see 41 percent higher mortality rates than white women.

“Understanding those factors will help treating these people in the future so that they have survivability rates that are the same,” William P. Lauder, executive chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos., told WWD. “From the standpoint of the Estée Lauder Companies, we think this is a very important place for us to be taking our resources.”

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The Breast Cancer Campaign, founded by Lauder’s mother, Evelyn H. Lauder, has funded more than $108 million in research, education and medical services, in partnership with Lauder’s Charitable Foundation, per a statement from the company. There will also be messaging to drive awareness on TikTok and different Meta platforms, as well as illuminating monuments like Paris’ Eiffel Tower and New York’s Empire State Building.

“One of the things we’re proud of is deaths from breast cancer have declined 42 percent in the U.S. since 1993. That’s a pretty incredible number,” Lauder said. “A woman diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in 1993 would have had a 75 percent chance of surviving five years or more. Today, a woman diagnosed with stage one breast cancer has an over 90 percent chance of surviving five years.”

Since the campaign’s origins, public understanding of the disease, as well as medical advancements, have changed drastically. “I’ve been doing it for 27 years,” Elizabeth Hurley, global ambassador for the company’s breast cancer campaign, told WWD of her position. “It’s a completely different landscape as far as breast cancer is concerned today than when it started.”

From then to now, Hurley noted the rise in awareness, beyond just change in outcome for breast cancer patients. “It’s just a different landscape, it’s a different time. My son, who’s 20 years old, has only known a world where the pink ribbon is significant and recognized by all, but I didn’t grow up like that,” she said.

A new generation of advocates have also been personally rewarding to Lauder, who credited the company’s philanthropy as a way of motivating its workforce. “There’s a number of initiatives that we, as a company, embrace,” he said. “This is a very important part of our DNA and who we are as a company. It’s also a very important part of why our employees are so loyal and proud of the company, because we make significant efforts in this area.”

As far as the state of the business, Lauder acknowledged uncertainties in the economic landscape, but remained confident in his company’s buoyancy. “We’re prepared for whatever the future brings to us, and we’re prepared to pivot and adjust as we have in the past to whatever challenges we have in front of us,” he said.