Financial Performance & Profitable Growth
Focusing on the future while creating value today.
Why Financial Performance & Profitable Growth Matters
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 2021 marked our 144th year of operation. Throughout the year, we remained focused on colleague engagement, our key financial priorities and customer service excellence. Through our approach, we delivered record financial performance driven by strong volume growth and ongoing pricing activities, resulting in an adjusted EBITDA of $764.2 million, an adjusted Class A EPS of $5.60 per share and reducing our net debt by approximately $280 million. We also returned more than $105 million to our shareholders via dividends paid.
In 2019, we completed the acquisition of Caraustar Industries, significantly expanding our Paper Products and Services (PPS) 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.
We continue to integrate ESG into our strategy and embed ESG into our business and operations to enhance performance. In 2021, our Leadership Council focused on accelerating our ESG performance on key ESG initiatives—Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Waste, Energy Reduction, Environmental Compliance and Circularity & Innovation—through quarterly meetings and developing and implementing strategic action plans. We also introduced ESG data, measurement and tracking into the Greif Business System, Enterprise Scorecard and incorporated ESG performance into our capital approval process. During the capital approval process, colleagues indicate a project’s ESG benefits such as reduced energy use or increased use of recycled materials, allowing better measurement, tracking and decision-making related to our sustainability impacts. In 2022, we will expand our program to include ESG metrics in monthly performance reviews.
Our commitments to delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction through product quality and service excellence enabled us to improve our Customer Satisfaction Index and Corrective Action Rate scores, contributing to our efforts to attract and retain customers. We continue to incorporate sustainability further into our products and conversations with customers, reinforcing 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 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. The Joint Venture business will manufacture new blow molded 1000-liter inner bottles for use in various models of IBC with plans to expand into the manufacture of Greif brand GCUBE 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.
In 2020, 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, as well as the supply of consistent high quality PCR material to service market needs. 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 19 recycling facilities. Read more about our closed loop services on the Cradle-to-Cradle Manufacturing, Reconditioning, Reuse & Recycling 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 expanding our small plastic jerrycan production capabilities at facilities in Costa Rica and Brazil. In the Middle East and North Africa, we are expanding small plastic investments in Israel and Morocco to improve profit retention and align with our sustainability strategy. These expansions allow us to meet increasing customer demand over the short- to medium- term and improve output while reducing costs.
Our colleagues make our efforts and success possible. We are creating a workplace that our colleagues want to participate in by creating a safe, productive and inclusive environment. Similar to our approach to ensuring customer satisfaction, we led several initiatives in 2021 to drive employee satisfaction, including open forums with leadership, town halls and surveys. We focus on colleague retention and development to assure our colleagues have a customer service mindset and do business The Greif Way.
The consolidation and standardization of our GIP business with a single leadership team assists in increasing efficiency across the Company. For example, in 2021, we consolidated our Flexible Products & Services and GPA business units into our GIP segment and expanded our lined drum production to an existing facility in China, allowing us to provide a more stable supply to our customers, reinforce customer intimacy and reduce transportation costs for certain customers. In 2022, we plan to increase alignment between our GIP and PPS business segments to create consistency throughout our operations.
We maintained strong financial performance in 2021 while managing the impacts of supply chain disruptions, labor constraints, inflation and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We achieved our 2021 financial performance through improving our internal controls environment, de-risking our supply chain, price adjustment mechanisms, contract renegotiations, optimizing our tax structure, automation and paying down debt. As a result of our continued efforts, we decreased our leverage ratio to 2.49x thereby fulfilling our commitment to reach a targeted leverage ratio range of 2.0x — 2.5x, consistent with Greif’s level of debt prior to the Caraustar acquisition.
In early 2022, Greif announced that it entered into a definitive agreement to divest its 50% share in the Flexible Packaging joint venture to Gulf Refined Packaging for a total cash consideration of $123 million, subject to certain conditions and post-closing adjustments.
We fulfilled our commitment to reach a targeted leverage ratio range of 2.0x — 2.5x made prior to the Caraustar acquisition.
Returned to our shareholders
In fiscal 2021, Greif returned $105 million to shareholders through dividends paid.