Polka Wins at Merton Best Business Awards 2022

Polka Wins at Merton Best Business Awards 2022

By Lynette Shanbury – Polka’s Executive Director and Joint CEO

Having been shortlisted in two categories for this year’s Merton Best Business Awards, we were delighted to be both a Runner-Up and Winner on the night!

In the Champions of Change category we nabbed Runner-Up status. This category was for businesses that have made exceptional contributions, influenced, or brought cultural change to support and champion diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace.

We were also delighted to be crowned Winners of the Sustainable Impact category. Taking our cues from Polka’s Young Voices panel – our brilliant group of 8–13-year-olds who advise the Theatre on its operational and artistic plans – we recognised the importance of putting sustainability at the heart of our recent major building redevelopment. Our building achieved a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method) ‘excellent’ rating, putting it in the UK’s top 10% for environmental good practice. Here are just a few of the measures we have taken to ensure we are tackling climate change at Polka:

  • Only 0.02% of the waste from the capital project went to landfill
  • Flooring from one of our productions was recycled as wall panelling, while the wave baffles running along the ceiling of our ‘Underwater Corridor’ are made from recycled glass
  • Lighting throughout the building’s refurbished spaces were switched from strip lighting to LEDs, resulting in a 60% reduction in energy use
  • Our new building management system allows us to zone areas of the building that are heated, which we estimate will deliver 4.2 tonnes of carbon savings per year
  • Heat transfer solution Hydromx reduces our heating demand by a further 25% in our Main Theatre
  • Installation of 46 new solar panels on our roof, helping us cut our carbon emissions by over 4 tons per year
  • Addition of boxes, three bat boxes, a log pile and two bug hotels in our outdoor spaces
  • Plants in our re-designed garden are tended by staff and local volunteers.

As a children’s theatre, Polka is in a unique position to spark children’s enthusiasm for their environment, and sustainability is regularly part of our theatre and creative workshops programming. RED, our re-opening production in October 2021, explored themes of environmental destruction with recycled materials integrated into the aesthetic of the show. Plastic Drastic Fantastic in April 2022 used Indian dance to highlight the benefits and dangers of plastic in our world.

What’s next?

Building on the strides we have made with our redevelopment we have partnered with CREW Energy (, who have helped us with further improvements such as installation of additional solar panels. CREW will be running community activities at Polka, and have just held an Energy Café to advise families on energy efficiency to reduce their carbon footprint at home.

And we have more and ongoing plans! We want to replace the remaining strip lighting in the old parts of the building not yet covered by the new building works. We have a travel strategy that promotes sustainable transport amongst staff and visitors, and local and sustainable procurement policy for the café. Our latest brochure print is certified ‘Planet Positive’, certified carbon neutral, printed by an eco-accredited factory on a carbon neutral press.

We hope our building and all the activities that go on here will capture the imaginations of visiting children and inspire them to consider ways they can introduce environmental sustainability into their own lives.