The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Home / GRI Standards / Case study: How Greif treats waste responsibly

Case study: How Greif treats waste responsibly

With approximately 290 production, warehouse and office locations across the globe and 17,000 employees working in more than 40 countries, Greif is a leading world producer of industrial packaging products and services. Greif seeks to reduce its operational waste, waste to landfill and packaging waste, to efficiently drive its business.  Tweet This!

This case study is based on the 2019 Sustainability Report by Greif published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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By working to reduce waste, Greif lowers material use and transportation costs and provides the lighter weight and more cost-effective products that its customers value. In order to treat waste responsibly Greif took action to:

  • reduce VOCs through the use of water-based exterior paints
  • reduce waste by addressing wastewater
  • turn waste to fuel
  • achieve waste reduction through customer service excellence

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2019 Sustainability Report Greif identified a range of material issues, such as product quality, ethics and compliance, climate strategy, energy and emissions, talent attraction, development and retention. Among these, treating waste responsibly stands out as a key material issue for Greif.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Greif engages with:

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement
Greif’s Board of Directors & Leaders



·      Daily interactions

·      Impact mapping interviews

·      Materiality assessment survey

·      Quarterly updates on sustainability



·      Daily interactions

·      Biannual satisfaction surveys

·      Materiality assessment interviews



·      Daily interactions

·      Investor day events

·      Materiality assessment interviews



·      Community engagement (face-to-face meetings, interviews, survey)

·      Community service events



·      Greif LCA

·      Interviews with sustainability experts (e.g., WBCSD)

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Greif conducted interviews and surveys with Greif leadership and external stakeholders.

What actions were taken by Greif to promote treat waste responsibly?

In its 2019 Sustainability Report Greif reports that it took the following actions for treating waste responsibly:

  • Reducing VOCs through the use of water-based exterior paints
  • Since 2009, Greif has been committed to using water-based exterior paints in its operations, rather than high volatile organic compound (VOC) exterior paints. Through transitioning to water-based paints, Greif reduced VOC-based emissions by 40 percent. Greif’s Alsip, Illinois facility reduced VOC content by approximately 2 lbs./gallon. In RIPS China, five Greif facilities successfully tested their capabilities to use water-based exterior paints and some began transitioning customers to the products using them. Additionally, Greif’s North American Rigid Industrial Packaging & Services (RIPS) operations collect excess exterior steel drum paint to reuse to paint the bottom of the drums. Termed “Greif Gray,” this recollected paint reduced paint waste by 22 percent in 2017.
  • Reducing waste by addressing wastewater
  • In 2017, Greif’s RIPS facility in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was the largest contributor of waste to landfill in the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) with 36 percent of waste going to landfill. Through analysing their waste streams, the facility team determined that this was primarily due to wastewater that, if treated properly, could be recycled. Despite limited infrastructure support, availability of recycling partners and transportation options, the team worked to establish a process to internally separate and clean water to acceptable levels for local transporters and recyclers, and consistently return water to them. Through these measures, the team reduced the oil content of the water from 60 ppm to 1.5 ppm and decreased their waste-to-landfill to four percent by the end of 2019. Due to Saudi Arabia’s own water scarcity, the impact of this initiative goes far beyond Greif’s operations. Through initiatives like this Greif has the ability to set a precedent for other businesses and, ultimately, impact the local community.
  • Turning waste to fuel
  • In 2019, Greif collaborated with one of its waste management partners to identify materials used in its operations that could enter their engineered fuels programme, which aims to identify materials that have a high heat value such as plastics, oils and absorbents, that can be used as fuel in certain applications that require significant amounts of energy, such as cement kilns. Through this collaboration, polypropylene lids used on Greif’s fiber and plastic drums were identified as strong options to enter this programme. Since these lids cannot be recycled, Greif’s Naperville, Illinois facility collected and palletised 3.3 tons of lids to enter into this programme. Without this programme, the lids would have been sent to landfill.
  • Achieving waste reduction through customer service excellence
  • In 2019, Greif’s RIPS facility in Sweden received a customer complaint that Jerry cans were being damaged during unpacking because the plastic film used to wrap the pallets was too tight and difficult to remove. In response, the facility tested a number of film alternatives that were easier to remove and posed less risk of damaging the cans and ultimately selected an alternative that reduced the use of film by 48 percent, saving 7500 kg of materials annually. The transition also led to $12,000 USD savings and a 22,000 kg emission reduction. In order to scale the project, the team updated the standard operating procedure for using similar films and worked with Greif’s procurement team to update the supplier and material for the film.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standard addressed in this case is: Disclosure 306-2 Waste by type and disposal method

Disclosure 306-2 Waste by type and disposal method corresponds to:


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1) This case study is based on published information by Greif, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:


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