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Could insurance be the unlikely environmental hero in forcing business practice and individual behavioural change? The Waste.Agency two months on...

Copped Photo of Graham Barker's image

Photo by Graham Barker, John Lewis Bag in Regent's Canal

When beginning the Waste.Agency intervention two months ago, the intention was to draw in people from the insurance industries to bring a perspective that might be at odds with artists and academics regarding how the economy is constructed. What surprises has been the great number of conversations with insurers beginning from a point of the unsustainability of the present economic system, which we all rely. Even more unexpected, the revelations in how insurance could be at the forefront of behavioural change both in business and people’s everyday lives.

We are at the early stages of the intervention and it is too soon to state definite outcomes, but there are encouraging signs that if acted on, the insurance model could invoke whole new strands of innovative business practice.

In developing our ‘plastic in the sea’ talk series, the thought patterns turned to consequence to everyday life that plastic in water could cause, i.e. damage to power plants causing electricity outage or large cargo ships breaking down at sea. There are already plenty of studies and coverage of how plastic is finding its way into the food chain by fish eating it directly or fish eating fish that had previously eaten plastic. M&S Food stores, who cover virtually everything they sell in plastic or foil, attempt to distract the public from this unnecessary policy by lauding their “Forever Fish” campaign and being the first major supermarket in the UK to charge for carrier bags.


In 10 years time fish are being pulled out of the North Sea full of green M&S bags, or worse, news of a child having elements of a bag removed from the gut after eating a contaminated fish. In such a scenario the entire brand is at risk from an enraged public and leaving open an insurance payout. For the insurers not to payout would mean proving that the insurance excluded this scenario.

What the intervention has illuminated is that a risk adverse industry like insurance might prove to be powerful enough to force change in spite of resistance from government or big business. In the events industry, in which Platform-7 works, there has been a huge shift over the last 10-15 years in the way festivals and live events are run. The pressure to avoid accidents and incidents has led to a number of changes, mostly for the best. Regardless of the irritation that is caused by the demands of the industry, many events continue to innovate and develop new safer modes of working while still producing spectacular work.

Insurance may not be the golden bullet to solving the ecology issues man is creating through his excessive consumption of the earth’s resources, yet it may offer more than would initially be thought.

The Waste.Agency will continue to explore this issue further and will update regularly on progress.


Creator of Waste.Agency and founder of Platform-7 Events

Photo by Graham Barker, Tesco Bag in Regent's Canal

Graham Barker photos are on display at the Waste.Agency until 19th December 2014

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