October 2023

By Ashlea Mallett

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Ashlea Mallett

Our Sustainability Manager

Growing up on the coast of Portugal working on boats and looking after horses and farm animals, it’s no surprise Ashlea ended up on a mission to protect the natural environment. 

Graduating from University College Birmingham with a Business Enterprise degree in 2022, she went on to work at Stratford and Solihull College, where she advised SMEs on making their operations more sustainable, before returning to the fold to become our Sustainability Manager in 2023. 

In this role, she supports our sustainability steering board, leading on and implementing sustainable measures and practices as part of our wider sustainability strategy. But, why did she choose to leave the Portuguese coast and come to study business at University College Birmingham?

“My dad ran a yacht brokerage and yacht services company, so I worked on boats from aged 15 to get out on the sea and earn some extra money, and I volunteered for a diving company and riding school from the age of 14," she said. "From day dot, I was in nature, which engrained in me to have respect for the environment. 

“When I left school, I became a brokerage administrator for my dad's business and after two years of hard work and proving I could take on more responsibility, was promoted to general manager, implementing lots of sustainable measures and solutions. Swapping plastic cups for glasses, using recyclables, refilling bottles instead of sachets. We looked to make the yard more sustainable by using different paints, changing what we did with our waste oil. Sadly, we had to close the business during Covid-19 before implementing any bigger changes. 

"I realised I was fairly good at business. My friend was off to study in London, which got me thinking about coming to the UK, but I wanted to be close to family. My parents are from Sutton Coldfield and my extended family live in Lichfield, so Birmingham was ideal."

What she didn't want to do was your typical business management degree, where you learn a bit of everything and don’t have an opportunity to specialise. "I wanted something with sustainable enterprise embedded in the modules and found the unique Business Enterprise degree at University College Birmingham," she said. "I did my final project on zero waste shops for students, loving the idea of taking young people when they are in the most mouldable phase of their lives, first time living on their own, and shaping their living habits in a good way. 

"I actually planned to fulfil this business idea and, supported by Enterprise Hive, even did an eight-week designated sustainable business course with Maddie Booth from Birmingham Enterprise Community - BEC Leaps, who has become a good friend of mine. 

"But then, when I graduated, I got a fantastic opportunity at Stratford and Solihull College, advising SMEs looking to achieve their sustainability goals through funded consultancy opportunities. Rosa Wells, University College Birmingham's Executive Dean of Engineering, Digital and Sustainable Construction, was my director at the time and when the Sustainability Manager position came up, it sounded perfect."

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