Brandi Harleaux, ISRI director at large and recipient of the 2020 Young Executive of the Year Award, has added another laurel to her collection. The Houston International Trade Development Council (HITDC) recognized her as its International Rising Star among the 2021 Global Seven group of Houston-area executives. The annual awards, now in their eighth year, honor local businesses that make the metropolitan area a player on the world stage.
Harleaux is CEO of South Post Oak Recycling Center (SPORC) in ISRI’s Gulf Coast Region. “Her contributions to the recycling industry as an owner and a board member of the Gulf Coast Region have been amazing,” says Becky Proler of Southern Core Recycling, the region’s first vice president. “She successfully transitioned her skills into promoting the recycling industry both locally and nationally. This award recognizes her tireless work and effort, and I am very proud that she is receiving it.”
This year Harleaux serves as chair of the City of Houston Office of Business Opportunity’s 15-member advisory board. She has been on the board since 2018. Before becoming successor to her 27-year-old metal recycling company, Harleaux worked as a strategic leader and consultative talent management and organization development executive within highly matrixed and complex Fortune 500 companies.
“Part of my vision for our company and our industry is to have an influence globally and domestically,” Harleaux says. “At the most tactical level, we continue to partner, procure, and supply materials from other markets. Ideally, I would like the opportunity to further tap into developing countries. There is an opportunity for SPORC to have a [larger position] and positive influence with our industry and trade association’s ongoing global impact.”
From humble beginnings in 1994, SPORC focused on servicing working-class people: plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians. The company since expanded to manufacturing, government/city entities, demolition companies, and corporations. After working for Target Corp., Northrop Grumman and The Walt Disney Co., Brandi Harleaux joined SPORC in 2013. She took the reins of the company from her parents, Freddie and Angela Robinson, and worked to build a solid “leadership bench” at an executive level, as well as overall workforce development, business diversification, and focused community impact.
Like other recyclers, SPORC emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with a more intentional and greater focus on people, processes, systems, and impact. “During the early phase of COVID we took time to focus on technical skills and ‘life skills’ to equip our team to be higher functioning employees and people. Whether that be bringing in banks to help so-called ‘second-chance hires’—those with criminal records—open bank accounts, [or providing workers with] metals identification training, or recertifying on equipment and safety protocols, quality and process flow, as well as offering a personal finance class called Financial Peace University,” she says.
SPORC is poised for even more growth. “We’re in some of the strongest markets we’ve seen,” Harleaux says. “That creates a stronger financial position to make different moves—whether that is through diversification, physical expansion, and/or crossing borders—that is a huge strategic focus of mine right now.”
Having an impact in the communities SPORC does business in is not a new priority for the company, although Harleaux notes, “That has become more focused and aligned with our values and outreach initiatives I’m personally passionate about.” The company has supported Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas, by donating aluminum cans to a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)-based science class where students “operated” a mini-foundry experiment. Harleaux has worked to provide young women with guidance to help them become decisionmakers in business, politics, the arts, and more, through the Richmond, Texas-based nonprofit Nerdy Girl Success.
SPORC recently has started sponsoring an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher at Houston’s Audrey H. Lawson Middle School to close opportunity gaps and improve college and career readiness for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. That teacher will go on to provide STEM education from JASON Learning and ISRI.
Harleaux holds leadership roles at ISRI including serving on the Executive Committee, as communications chair of the ISRI Gulf Coast Region Board, and co-chair of both the Challenges and Opportunities Committee, and the Design for Recycling® Subcommittee. She was the 2018–20 co-chair of ISRI’s Women in Recycling (WIR) Council, which re-launched in 2018 after 15-plus years of dormancy.
“Brandi has dedicated numerous hours of volunteer service as our communications lead chair and has made amazing improvements on that front,” states Nidhi Turakhia of Allied Alloys, Gulf Coast Region president. “She is a leader who truly goes above and beyond what is asked from her. I am honored to have her on our board and to call her a friend.”
All photos courtesy of South Post Oak Recycling Center. Featured image caption: SPORC CEO Brandi Harleaux attends the 2021 Houston International Trade Development Council’s Global Seven Awards. Body image 1 caption: Harleaux with other honorees of this year’s G7 awards. Body image 2 caption: An Episcopal High School student experiments with melting aluminum from cans donated by SPORC.