2020 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” that identified 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

In 2020, we began using these insights to make strategic decisions in the organization, including opportunities to develop 100 percent recycled drums and optimizing material use in intermediate bulk containers (IBC). Due to the increased pressure on companies to become more environmentally friendly, Greif has increased focus on post-consumer resin (PCR) products and reconditioning, more specifically, growth of its IBC reconditioning network. In reference to the third trend, digitization of supply chain and logistics, Greif credits digitization as a key enabler of sustainability improvements like industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), supply chain optimization, and marketing-related emissions reductions.

$362 M

Revenue from Sustainability-tagged products

In 2020, Greif had $361,984,251 in revenue from sustainability-tagged products.

The Greif Green Tool continues to be an important tool for us to communicate our innovations and sustainable products to our customers. In 2020, 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 jerrycans, increasing use of products with high percentages of PCR, create and coordinate closed loop packaging in Europe and test Greif’s GCUBE Track technology to optimize logistics and supply chain. The customer implemented two of these projects and will continue to evaluate the remaining for implementation in 2021.

Since its inception, the Green Tool has been used by 65 customers to evaluate the GHG emissions associated with different shipping scenarios. In 2020 we continued to engage with our customers using the Greif Green Tool providing more complex analyses in support of lowering their carbon footprint through packaging solutions. In 2020, Greif had $361,984,251 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 2020, 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 also worked 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.

Our Food Safety Initiative has also progressed in our Global Industrial Packaging (GIP) business. In 2019, we formalized our integrated ISO-certified food manufacturing practice program, which involves integrating basic food safety procedures into our quality management system. At the end of 2020, 90 percent of our facilities were compliant with the new standards. All facilities are planned to be compliant by the end of 2021 ultimately becoming the standard quality system used across GIP 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 products made from 100 percent recycled fiber and products that are recyclable or compostable, including other Greif products such as fibre drums, environmentally smart (ES) natural paperboard and flame retardant floor board. These innovations replace over 20,000 tons of single-use plastic packaging annually. 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 began hosting 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. In 2020, our LATAM team began conducting bi-weekly reviews with members of the innovation team to spread innovative practices that are already in place, identify new innovation opportunities and discuss non-product innovation opportunities to better serve our customers.

In 2021 we will continue to focus on developing our highest priority innovation initiatives, including new barrier technologies for plastics, jerrycan designs, knock down drum offerings across specific markets in LATAM, anti-counterfeiting measures and Internet of Things technologies.

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 2021, 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 Global Industrial Packaging (GIP) business unit, including life cycle services

Highlight Stories
Highlight Stories

Knock Down Drums (KDD) for Remote Locations

Greif’s Knock Down Drums (KDD) offer the optimal sustainable solution for transporting steel drums to remote locations. Semi-finished drum parts are shipped and assembled locally on site with minimum people and equipment. The unique concept allows transportation of up to 1,176 KDDs in a 20’ sea container compared to 80 full finished drums, saving valuable space, optimizing transport costs and minimizing our customers' carbon footprint during longer transit times. Drums are delivered directly to our customers' filling station helping to improve efficiencies with minimum stock and less manual handling.