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For Perry’s Ice Cream, Environmental Sustainability is Part of “The Good Stuff”

According to an environmental sustainability 2018 study in Science Magazine, the modern food supply chain is responsible for 26% of the globe’s greenhouse gas emissions. Feeding the world does take a toll. However, companies at all levels of food production are now refining their services to address this impact.

So has Perry’s Ice Cream. 11 years ago, the Akron, New York company charted a comprehensive direction to achieve a series of ambitious goals toward environmental sustainability across their multifaceted operation.

But for a company with a more than 100-year history of responsible, community-first business practices—from its use of natural resources and hydroelectric power to recycling and wastewater management—this direction wasn’t a shift in its collaborative work or values. It was merely a move to formalize, augment and announce the sustainable efforts Perry’s had been executing for years.

Perry’s customers advocate for sustainability

Gayle Perry Denning with WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable Board of Directors' Choice Award

“What prompted us to build a support team and focus on environmental sustainability was our customers. In the 2000s, customers were beginning to ask us to specify what we were doing for the environment and community, and to make the world a better place,”

Gayle Perry Denning, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability and Strategic Branding.  

And over more than a decade, the Perry’s team has taken great strides to ensure it’s making its ever-expanding corner of the planet a better place to be.

There are pullout statistics the company can point to. From its 586 tons of corrugated boxes reused since 2013, to its elimination of 97 tons of released CO2 over the past 10 years through reuse of excess heat energy off equipment. This innovative process earned them the Board of Directors’ Choice Award from the WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable in 2020. 74% of energy that powers its facility comes from hydroelectric power sourced from nearby Niagara Falls. Last year, an on-site lighting upgrade to its truck garage enabled Perry’s to lower kilowatt-hour energy usage by 58% annually.

These achievements are impressive, but they’re just an introduction. The ice cream purveyor has many environmental sustainability goals as it enhances its WNY capabilities and expands into more markets.

At the top of its list: to become a zero-landfill company

Zero waste-to-landfill is an environmental sustainability benchmark achieved by diverting 100% of waste that a company produces from a landfill to an alternate disposal source. It takes strategy, resources and a committed workforce to achieve it. For example, internationally renowned breweries like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have done it. But for Perry’s, the initiative started with the impact it could have on its community, as well as a relatable concept that everyone could get behind.

“When we started out, we established that goal because it was something all of our team members could wrap their heads around,” says Perry Denning. “Everyone knows ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ so it was one to get excited about. It was easy for our team members to pitch in, and we’ve reduced our landfill [contribution] by 64% since 2010.”

Off-site fuel consumption

To complement sustainability on-site, Perry’s has also enhanced its capabilities concerning its fuel consumption across its sales and delivery fleet. Since 2010, it’s improved its miles-per-gallon across company vehicles by 36%. This year, Perry’s earned entry into SmartWay, a voluntary Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program focused on improving the freight transportation sector of supply chain efficiency. SmartWay seeks to reduce emissions that effect climate change and increase global energy security. They also help their freight partners improve efficiencies by measuring, benchmarking and streamlining freight supply chain operations.

More than 3,700 companies and organizations currently participate in the program. Over the past several years, Perry’s transportation teams have worked together to increase fuel efficiencies through investment in new equipment, driver training, and metrics benchmarking. This earned their SmartWay designation—and, also, admiration from the initiative.

According to SmartWay, Perry’s will contribute to the Transport Partnership’s savings of:

  • 312 million barrels of oil
  • $41.8 billion on fuel costs
  • 133 metric tons of CO2
  • 2.6 million tons of NOx
  • 109 million tons of PM
  • This is equivalent to eliminating annual energy use in over 20 million homes.

By joining SmartWay Transport Partnership, Perry’s demonstrates its strong environmental leadership and corporate responsibility.

What’s ahead for Perry’s sustainability efforts

This puts the company on an even more sustainable path for their future—and all of the places it takes them. Expansion into the Columbus and Cleveland markets of Ohio—including its recent designation as the official ice cream of Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians—have expanded the company’s reach. But importantly, it has provided the opportunity to make an even bigger environmental impact through their responsible operations. According to Perry Denning, major environmental sustainability goals for 2021 include:

  • A major upgrade of its on-site wastewater treatment facility, which aids their ongoing zero-landfill goal.
  • What the company is referring to as “Clean Label 2.0,” which will be an extension of the company’s ongoing efforts to enhance its cherished ice cream flavors with more sustainably sourced ingredients.

However, the most significant transition may be its plans to become a Certified B Corporation. This designation indicates a certain level of socially responsible performance across all levels of operation. It is governed by an independent body that evaluates for-profit companies on governance, human relations and environmental metrics. According to Perry Denning, it’s quite a process, but one that’s certainly achievable with the company’s ongoing momentum.

“It [supports] the all-around idea that companies are here to do good. This also helps protect our mission of doing good in the community.”

Ultimately, that’s what Perry’s has always focused on: being forward-thinking whose work, culture and contributions help the communities it serves.

More than 100 years of responsibility

Perry’s founder H. Morton Perry first uttered his delicious quote of, “Make sure you put in enough of the good stuff” more than 100 years ago. And he wasn’t just talking about ice cream ingredients. Moreover, he was addressing the personal responsibility that everyone under the Perry’s Ice Cream umbrella has to contribute. Whether that’s to their work or the planet. It’s “the good stuff” that makes life great, and this mantra has now led the company to instill an environmental consciousness into its culture that’s committed to making the world a better place. 

“Environmental sustainability involves all team members. We’ve worked really hard over the years to build a culture of sustainable thinking and actions” says Perry Denning. “That involves everyone, so our team members know they can make a difference. They pride themselves on the work they do to improve sustainability for Perry’s and future generations to come.”

To learn more about Perry’s environmental sustainability efforts, click here. To download the 2020 Good Stuff Report, click here.