Interview with Ashley Gravlee – Conducted by Madison Hayes
Ashley Gravlee is the Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Novelis. Novelis is the world leader in rolled aluminum products and recycling, along with the largest global product of automotive and beverage can sheet. After graduating from The University of North Carolina with a degree in public relations, Ashley began her journey with Novelis. Throughout her time with Novelis she has had an abundance of rewarding experiences. One being with the program, one of which Ashley started herself, called “Recycle For Good”. This program was an initiative to improve recycling levels and the overall community across the state of Georgia. Novelis has partnered up with the Atlanta Falcons for this program and has already recycled millions of pounds of aluminum from events. The amount of aluminum cans recycled helps to generate enough money to build homes in the greater Atlanta community with the help of Novelis and Habitat of Humanity. Ashley is very proud of “Recycle For Good” and hopes to expand this initiative to other stats across the nation.
As you were studying at University of North Carolina, did you ever see yourself in the field of promoting sustainability after graduating?
Not really. I was focusing on advertising and thought I would be working in an ad agency on some glamorous campaigns. However, I had always wanted to be part of the caliber of companies my business serves now.
So it appears that you have worked with Novelis for quite some time now, what growth have to seen within Novelis as far as sustainability goes?
Novelis is the world’s largest recycler of aluminum – recycling more than 65 billion cans every year worldwide. This number has grown substantially over time over the past 11 years I have been at Novelis so I am very proud of the commitment our company has made to do the right thing for our environment. We have also made substantial multi-million dollar investments in every region in which we operate (North America, South America, Asia and Europe) in recycling which makes me very proud as well.
Do you know whether or not Novelis plans to expand their recycling spectrum other than just aluminum?
We are an aluminum company and the world’s largest recycler and purchaser of aluminum. We do not plan to extend this to other materials although we intend to be great stewards of all resources our company handles and continue to reduce our carbon and environmental impact as much as possible across our operations globally.
What were some keys reasons Recycle For Good was started?
In Georgia, more than $70 million worth of aluminum is needlessly sent to Georgia landfills every year. By connecting recycling to a charitable cause (in this case 3 million cans = $80,000 which completely funds a Habitat for Humanity home) we are hoping to change the perspective of Georgians on the value of a can and therefore inspire them to recycle.
From my research, Recycle For Good seems like a wonderful initiative to improve recycling levels and the overall community across the state of Georgia. Do you see Novelis possibly expanding this program into other states?
We are hoping to be a model for other stadiums, other sports teams and also other professional and collegiate leagues. We are currently in talks with NASCAR on potential adoption at some of their racetracks. In North America, more than $1.5 billion worth of aluminum goes to landfills every year so there is a lot of potential in replication.
It seems like the majority of people do not know the importance of recycling aluminum. What are some of Novelis’ plans on informing the greater community of the benefits of recycled aluminum?
We have started Recycle for Good to get the attention of the sports world and have them understand how much wasted potential in community support and jobs is going to our landfills across North America every year. We are also working with Discovery Education to educate children nationwide on the benefits of recycling through free digital recycling educations resources at lifeofacan.com. To date since last October, we have reached more than 1.5 million students and educators.
Since Recycle for Good is partnered with the Atlanta Falcons, is there a possibility Novelis would partner with The University of Georgia in the future?
We are currently open to any opportunities to expand the initiative. We have a recycling plant located in close proximity to UGA so we would be open to opportunities to discuss expansion.
What was one of the most rewarding experiences you’ve had while working with Novelis?
Being able to lead the Recycle for Good initiative which not only helps conserve our natural resources,, gives jobs to our people and those in the manufacturing industry, funds Habitat and builds a home for a local family is the most rewarding project I have ever had the opportunity to join. I have seen directly how an aluminum can made the dream of home ownership come true and it is amazing to see the impact recycling can have on so many levels.
In the next 10 years, if you’re still working with Novelis, what is the number one thing you wish to see this company accomplish?
I hope we can make a dent in recycling rates and decrease the $1.5 billion worth of aluminum that is currently being sent to landfill every year. Our resources can be put to better use to create green jobs, expand manufacturing, help our environment and better our communities!
If someone were interested in interning for Novelis, what would be the first steps they would need to take?
We have a few opportunities for college interns and have had interns in the areas of communications, finance and engineering from UGA. I would suggest looking at our careers portal on our website or seeking out Novelis professionals through LinkedIn and trying to make a personal connection to one of our colleagues.