2018 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.

2018 saw significant changes to how we manage innovation. We combined our Global Innovation and Sustainable Innovation teams into a single Global Innovation Committee and established a formal innovation function in our RIPS North America business. The newly formed committee is comprised of representatives from each of Greif’s business units and is responsible for driving collaboration and idea sharing across business units. The new committee structure prevents ideas that may be beneficial to multiple business units from becoming siloed in one area. In RIPS NA’s innovation function, innovation priorities are evaluated and prioritized based on potential financial return, sustainability impacts and overall value to Greif and our customers. In 2019, the committee will provide quarterly updates to our Executive Leadership Team on progress on innovation priorities and industry megatrends that may influence innovation and overall company strategy in the future.


Savings from Gauge Improvement Program

Working with our suppliers to meet minimum specifications requirements resulted in significant savings in 2018.

The Greif Green Tool continues to be an important tool for us to communicate our sustainable products to our customers. This past year, we updated the Greif Green Tool by enhancing its analytical capability to allow detailed modeling, allowing plant/process specific analysis, updating the tool’s underlying data sets and improving the classification of our sustainable products and processes portfolio. We also completed an analysis of the majority of our product portfolio against our eight sustainable product criteria. Through the analysis we identified the products we will consider part of our sustainable product portfolio. All new product launches will be analyzed and added to the portfolio if they meet the criteria.

In 2018, we continued focusing on innovation around food safety. As part of Greif’s Food Safety Initiative, our Greif Flexibles Team diligently worked with leading baby food producers and stakeholders to gain valuable insight into the evolving industry needs and regulations. The team continues to work with customers and regulators to understand current and emerging legislative requirements to ensure our products meet both regulatory and customer needs. 

Our IBC product line saw advancements in both food safety and dematerialization this past year. We opened a new IBC plant, equipped to produce state-of-the-art food safe IBCs. We operationalized two lines dedicated to producing lighter weight IBC bottles and anticipate adding three more in 2019. 

We continued to collaborate with external partners in 2018. We worked with customers to build a business model around financing and leasing equipment to compress used products, which can then be used to make other products. This model diverts waste from landfill by finding secondary applications for our used products. Items such as fencing, furniture and roadside cones have been produced using Greif materials. These secondary products demonstrate our continued commitment to reducing waste and driving innovation.

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 of product to our customers. In 2019, we will continue to analyze new and innovative products through research and development. We will continue to grow partner support as we scale our innovative ideas.

Highlight Stories
Highlight Stories

Automatic Unloading System Helps Greif Reach Milestone

One of Greif’s RIPS facilities in France unloaded its 1.5 millionth drum for a major customer. This milestone would not have been possible without the implementation and operation of an automatic steel drum unloading system. This unique system unloads nearly 400 drums per hour. It was designed specifically for this customer and is able to interact with a variety of standard transport equipment. Thanks to the installation of this system, safety, quality, working environment and efficiency have all improved. Our colleagues no longer frequently handle heavy loads as the automatic system helps them manage the unloading process. In its first year of operation, this automatic system has led to cost savings for not only Greif, but for our customers.