2018 Sustainability Report

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


Optimizing the use and improving the quality of water in our operations.

United Nations Sustainable Development GoalsClean water and sanitation

Why Water Matters

Explanation of the material topic and its Boundary

Explain management approach components

Evaluate management approach

GRI 303: 103-1, 103-2, 103-3, GRI 306: 103-1, 103-2, 103-3, 306-1,

As global concerns over water scarcity rise, Greif is at risk of higher water supply costs and potential shortages in water-stressed regions. Ensuring water consumption is responsibly managed and water is properly treated and returned to its sources, leads to operational efficiencies, lowers operating costs and minimizes the impacts of regulations, water supply shortages and any community-related concerns.


Water sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water

Water discharge by quality and destination



Reduction in Biochemical Oxygen Demand

Our efforts in water quality have allowed us to already meet our 10% reduction by 2025 goal.

Greif’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Policy provides global guidelines for water conservation to improve water efficiencies in existing operations and incorporate water management in planning for future projects and technology investments. Each Greif facility is expected to manage water locally in accordance with our EHS policy.

Through analysis of Greif’s water use, we determined that 90 percent of Greif’s water use and impact is from our two Paper Packaging and Services (PPS) containerboard mills in Riverville, Virginia, and Massillon, Ohio, drawing water from the James River and two onsite wells, respectively. Total withdrawal from the James River is less than two percent of water flow.

Both mills are equipped with water treatment facilities to improve water quality prior to being discharged. In total, Greif returns 90 percent of water to local sources. Water is reused numerous times through the facilities before being treated and returned to sources.

While Greif’s water impact is predominately in our PPS operations, we do operate in some water-stressed regions in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, where local efforts to curb water use are underway. In 2019, we will continue our efforts to recycle and reuse water through our PPS operations and spread best practices on consumption in water-stressed regions.

Goals & Progress

In 2017, Greif announced a 2020 goal of 10 percent reduction in kilograms of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) per metric ton of production, from a 2014 baseline of 1.47, in our PPS operations. Our 2017 materiality process led to the creation of new 2025 goals. We have restated our BOD goal as a 2025 goal.

In 2018, we reevaluated our historical water use and BOD data to confirm our baseline and assumptions to support continual improvement related to water. Through this process, we have restated our 2014 BOD baseline to 1.40.

2025 Goal: Reduce Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) discharged in kilograms by 10 percent per metric ton of production from Riverville and Massillon mills using a 2014 baseline by the end of fiscal year 2025.

Progress: Since 2014, we have reduced BOD per metric ton of production by 79.6 percent. Our significant progress against our BOD goal was enabled by the installation of a wastewater treatment facility at our Massillon mill. Completed in July 2017, the project led to modest improvements in 2017 and far surpassed expectations in 2018. In 2019, we will continue to track on progress in reducing BOD while having additional conversations on how we can improve water quality and water use in our mills.

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Improving Our Wastewater

In 2017, Greif’s Massillon mill completed construction of a water treatment facility to significantly reduce the biological oxygen demand (BOD) of the plant’s discharge water before being returned to municipal treatment plants. High BOD levels promote bacteria growth, release odors and must be controlled using chemicals. Since installing the treatment facility, we reduced BOD discharged to the municipal system by over 96 percent, contributing to our 2025 BOD goal. This also eliminated several chemicals that were previously needed to control bacteria from our operations, improving water quality in the community.