2020 Sustainability Report
Committed to using financial, natural and human resources wisely without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs
Focusing on the future while creating value today.
Our financial performance and sustainability strategy are mutually beneficial. We leverage our strong financial performance to invest in the sustainability efforts that we believe in—a pillar of The Greif Way. Our sustainability strategy enables stronger sales, increased efficiency and reduced costs that create greater value for our shareholders.
Fiscal 2020 marked our 143rd year of operation. Throughout the year, we remained focused on customer service excellence and disciplined operational execution to adapt to and manage the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through our approach, we delivered solid financial results in a challenging operating environment, generating our best ever-Adjusted Free Cash Flow, $346.2 million, and reducing our net debt by approximately $294 million. We also returned more than $104 million to our shareholders via dividends paid.
In 2019, we completed the acquisition of Caraustar Industries, significantly expanding our Paper Products and Services business. Through the acquisition we gained 106 new operating sites, warehouses and offices, and expanded our paper services significantly, allowing us to better serve our customers. We originally forecasted run rate synergies of $45 million from the acquisition, but have been pleased to increase that forecast to at least $70 million by the end of Fiscal 2022.
Our commitments to delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction through product quality and service excellence enabled us to improve our Customer Satisfaction Index, Net Promoter and Corrective Action Rate scores, all contributing to our efforts to attract and retain customers. We also continue to incorporate sustainability further into our products and conversations with customers, which reinforces the value our services provide. We are building stronger relationships with our customers. We continue to leverage increased customer interactions into enhanced service offerings for our customers and better strategic insight into their business needs.
We work closely with our customers to create new and innovative products. Our collaborative approach to product innovation and life cycle solutions enables us to support our customers in solving the business challenges they face while lowering input costs and contributing to sustainability performance. For example, we have invested in laser printing and manufacturing capabilities for 70-millimeter screw caps to address customer needs in our Global Packaging Accessories (GPA) business unit, now part of our Global Industrial Packaging (GIP) business segment. Investments in these innovations are direct responses to customer requests and market shortages. Please visit our Innovation page for additional examples of innovation that are supporting our financial performance.
We continue to invest in our life cycle services to provide our customers with efficient steel, plastic and Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) reconditioning options, reducing demand for virgin materials. Globally, we are expanding our IBC reconditioning footprint. In Europe, we completed the acquisition of Tholu in 2019 and, in 2020, we formed a new Joint Venture company with Delta Plastics UK, the UK’s leading independent supplier of reconditioned IBCs providing new, reconditioned and remanufactured IBCs. To expand our IBC reconditioning network in North America, we acquired a minority stake in Centurion Container LLC and agreed to a clear path to full ownership.
We also entered into a partnership agreement with LAF s.r.l. The agreement involves the collection and preparation for the reuse of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) industrial packaging, including our IBCs, drums and jerrycans. It will enable both parties to improve and enhance the offering of new and second-life products to an end market that is increasingly attentive to sustainability needs and the circular economy. These investments are in line with our strategic plan and serve as a foundation for expanded and continued growth in industrial packaging. Additionally, through our acquisition of Caraustar, we can now offer more comprehensive paper recollection and recycling services through 18 recycling facilities. Read more about our closed loop services on the Circular Economy page.
As part of our plastic growth strategy, we have established a 5-year contract for our small plastic jerrycans won through a global bidding process. Two production lines will be dedicated to executing on this long-term contract. In Latin America, we are also expanding our small plastic jerrycan production capabilities at facilities in Costa Rica and Brazil. This expansion will allow us to meet increasing customer demand over the short- to medium- term and improve output while reducing costs.
Greif’s focus on sustainable activities reduces our operational footprint while providing economic and environmental benefits. We are actively working to reduce energy and waste, as they tie directly to cost savings, and our efforts to drive raw material and water efficiencies. Our compliance management system (CMS) reduces the risk of regulatory fines and aligns to our initiatives that address ethics, security risks and business continuity. Our CMS is also becoming increasingly important to how we track and manage waste data. All Greif sites globally are required to submit waste data and supporting documentation to CMS monthly, improving the speed, efficiency, accuracy, and ultimately the ability to effectively manage waste across our entire business.
Our colleagues make these efforts possible. We are creating a workplace that our colleagues want to participate in by creating a safe, productive and inclusive environment. We focus on colleague retention and development to ensure our colleagues have a customer service mindset and do business The Greif Way.
Our 2020 financial performance was strong despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic uncertainty. We focused on managing areas within our control to navigate these uncertainties and remain well positioned to benefit as the economy further recovers. 2020 financial performance was supported by opportunistic sourcing benefits and reduced discretionary spend. Our GIP segment benefited from lower raw material costs through much of the year. Our reorganization of our GIP business under a single leadership team captured a number of synergies early in 2020. We continued realizing synergies from the Caraustar integration, totaling approximately $40 million in Fiscal 2020.
As a result of our efforts, we generated $3.22 in Adjusted Class A Earnings per Share in Fiscal 2020. We also well exceeded our Adjusted Free Cash Flow outlook for Fiscal 2020 in part due to working capital improvements.
In 2021, we will consolidate our Flexible Products & Services and GPA business units into our GIP segment and expand our lined drum production to an additional facility in China, allowing us to provide a more stable supply to our customers, reinforce customer intimacy and reduce transportation costs for certain customers. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue conducting virtual plant tours as a means of providing the best service possible to our customers.