2019 Sustainability Report

arrow blueCommitted to using financial, natural and human resources wisely without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs


Improving products and processes to reduce our footprint and drive customer satisfaction.

United Nations Sustainable Development GoalsDecent work and economic growthindustry, innovation and infrastructureResponsible consumption and productionClimate action

Why Innovation Matters

Explanation of the material topic and its Boundary

Explain management approach components

Evaluate management approach

Innovation 2018: 103-1, 103-2, 103-3; GRI 301: 103-1, 103-2, 103-3

Our approach to innovation enables Greif to advance sustainable packaging and circular economy principles. As we continue to innovate, we reduce our footprint and support our customers’ desire for safer, lighter weight products and reduced transportation costs. We analyze our entire value chain—from the extraction of raw materials to our products’ end-of-life—to find opportunities to improve our products and processes. This strategy is not only the right thing to do, but provides us a competitive advantage.


Our innovation efforts focus on transforming our product portfolio by developing sustainable packaging solutions based on a set of eight environmental, social and financial sustainability criteria. Through internally-initiated solutions and collaboration with customers, our innovation efforts focus on dematerialization—producing products that are lighter weight, utilize less virgin raw materials and more recycled content—and green material substitution—identifying safer materials to produce our products, including bio-based materials—while continuing to meet performance requirements. Innovation is managed by our Global Innovation Committee, comprised of representatives from each of Greif’s business units and is responsible for driving collaboration and idea sharing across and within business units. The new committee structure facilitates idea sharing and collaboration across the enterprise, which allows ideas to serve and influence multiple business units. The committee updates Greif’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT) quarterly providing progress on innovation priorities and industry megatrends that may influence investment and overall company strategy in the future. Innovation is managed by a process that evaluates and prioritizes projects based on potential financial return, sustainability impacts and overall value to Greif and our customers.

In 2019 the Innovation Committee published the inaugural “Greif Global Innovation Trends Report.” The report was developed through in-depth primary and secondary research, interviews with experts across Greif, and engagement with thought leaders both inside and out of the packaging industry.   The result was used to provide global trend information for strategic planning and decision-making purposes across the Enterprise. The report identifies six trends that are strategically relevant to Greif:

  • Companies are Becoming More Environmentally Friendly
  • Digitization & Automation of Manufacturing
  • Digitization of Supply Chain & Logistics
  • Digitization of Enterprise Purchasing & business-to-business Selling
  • Workforce Shortages, Surpluses & Skills Gap
  • Growth Opportunities Increasing in Emerging Markets

While these findings will be used to inform business decisions and innovation priorities going forward, their relevance can already be seen in our recent innovation efforts across our organization.


Savings from Gauge Improvement Program

Working with our suppliers to meet minimum specifications requirements resulted in significant savings in 2019.

The Greif Green Tool continues to be an important tool for us to communicate our innovations and sustainable products to our customers. In 2019 we continued to update the tool with our latest product information, ensuring data and product classifications are as up-to-date as possible. Going forward, we will continue to keep data in the tool as up-to-date as possible and all new product launches will be analyzed and added to our sustainable product portfolio if they meet the criteria. In 2019, Greif used the Green Tool to collaborate with a customer in Italy to identify more sustainable products for them. The analysis helped identify four projects to present to the customer – transitioning to lighter-weight jerry cans, increasing use of products with high percentages of postconsumer resin (PCR), create and coordinate closed loop packaging in Europe and test Greif’s GCUBE Track technology to optimize logistics and supply chain. The customer will be implementing one of these projects in 2020 and will continue to evaluate the remaining for implementation in 2020 or 2021. Customer engagement like this, as well as the work done by our commercial team to educate our customers about the benefits of our sustainability tagged products lead to tremendous sales opportunities for Greif. In 2019, Greif had $430,962,128* in revenue from sustainability-tagged products.  

Our innovation priorities vary based on the specific needs of each of our business units and needs of the customers they serve. In 2019 our Flexible Products & Services (FPS) business continued advancing multiple sustainable product projects to reduce material use that, collectively, are estimated to generate 380 tons of material savings annually. The business unit continued to work with our stakeholders to maintain our position as a market leader in food safety and meet emerging compliance requirements as part of our Food Safety Initiative. As part of this work we have launched our new SealGuard Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container (FIBC). SealGuard is made with polyethylene (PE) using a revolutionary automated bonding process that allows for contamination- and leak-free transportation, better protects against moisture without using an inner liner, and reduces risk of tearing during filling processes. The material is also more resistant to ultraviolet degradation than comparable materials, reducing the risk of the packaging deteriorating if it is handled and stored incorrectly. In contrast to conventional FIBCs which are produced from polypropylene (PP) and PE, the SealGuard is only made from PE which makes it easily recyclable.

Our Food Safety Initiative has also progressed in our Rigid Industrial Packaging & Services (RIPS) business. In 2019, we formalized our integrated ISO-certified food manufacturing practice program, which involves integrating standard food safety practices into our quality management system. At the end of 2019, 45 percent of our facilities were compliant with the new standards. All facilities are planned to be compliant by the end of 2020 ultimately becoming the standard quality system used across RIPS North America. 

The acquisition and integration of Caraustar into our Paper Packaging & Services (PPS) operations has advanced innovation within the business unit even further. With their collaboration and capabilities we have increased our ability to offer recycled single use paper products and fibre drums, flame retardant floor board, wax coatings suitable for produce packaging and produce wood alternatives out of recycled containerboard. We are also proud of our automation and digital printing abilities both of which make our manufacturing operations more efficient and significantly reduce waste.

Our innovation efforts also address regionally-specific needs and can go beyond our products. Greif’s Latin American (LATAM) offices are encouraging innovation in their working environment. In 2019, the team hosted interactive and in-person innovation workshops to teach our colleagues about innovation and brainstorm not just product and process ideas, but innovations we can bring to our working environment to be a better and more attractive employer for current and future colleagues. The workshops also served as an opportunity to share innovation projects that may be beneficial to other facilities. In 2020, we will build on the success of the workshops by conducting them globally.

For more information about our innovation efforts, please see:

Goals & Progress

Our innovation priorities continue to support our 2025 supply chain goals to reduce raw materials/logistics costs used to produce current product offerings by one percent and move from non-green to green material sourcing if it is economically feasible and doing so provides high quality products to our customers. In 2020, we will continue to analyze new and innovative products through research and development and engage our customers to inform our innovation priorities.

*Global revenue from sustainability-tagged products for Greif’s Rigid Industrial Packaging & Services (RIPS) business unit, including end-of-life services
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Sustainable Solutions for IBCs Using PCR

In 2019 Greif’s Castenedolo, Italy facility began producing multi-layer GCUBE IBCs made with up to 60 percent PCR. The IBCs use PCR from the facility’s IBC collection service and are extruded at its on-site recycling center to manufacture the product. The inner layer of this sustainable bottle remains 100 percent virgin high density polyethylene (HDPE), while the two external layers are made from a blend of PCR. It offers all the same features as the standard IBC bottle including transparency. In addition to reducing the need for virgin resin, the new product reduces the carbon footprint of the IBC bottle by up to 38 percent and up to 11 percent for the entire IBC. Throughout 2020, production of this product will expand to facilities in Germany, Netherlands, Russia, China, Spain and the USA. These new IBCs are particularly suited to customers already taking advantage of our empty IBC collection service.