Watson is serving as chairman of the Central Ohio Heart Walk, the annual fundraiser for the local chapter of the American Heart Association.

As chief executive of a publicly traded company with global operations, Pete Watson is quite the busy man. Yet he doesn’t let the demands of leading Delaware-based Greif Inc. keep him from making a major time commitment to a good cause in Central Ohio.

Watson is serving as chairman of the Central Ohio Heart Walk, the annual fundraiser for the local chapter of the American Heart Association. The walk, which has a goal of raising $3 million to fight heart disease and strokes, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers, will step off at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 24 at McFerson Commons in the Arena District.

“I feel the Heart Association is a very important cause,” Watson says. “It promotes and encourages a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease and strokes. I thought it was something that everybody at Greif can get behind, and it was critical for us to be involved.”

The company and its employees have been participating in the Heart Walk since 2015. Watson estimates about a third of the 250 people working at the corporate headquarters in Delaware are regularly engaged in Heart Walk activities.

They include fundraising events at the headquarters and speakers who talk with employees about ways to lead a healthier lifestyle as part of a wellness push at Greif.

“One of the critical things at Greif is safeguarding the health of our people,” Watson says, pointing to efforts to promote walking and other physical activity as well as healthier eating habits. The company also offers cardiopulmonary resuscitation classes for employees.

The company wants its Heart Walk and healthy lifestyle commitments in Central Ohio to be duplicated at its other U.S. sites. Greif, which produces industrial packaging products that include steel, plastic and fiber drums, employs 17,000 people at 308 locations in 43 countries.

“Pete is committed to engaging the entire Central Ohio community in health and wellness, which is a big focus for us locally,” says Brenda Houston, executive director of the American Heart Association-Central Ohio. “Greif has also taken a global lens to spread our messaging beyond Columbus, and that is helping to raise awareness (about heart disease).”

About 30,000 people walked in the 1- or 3-mile noncompetitive walk last year, raising $2.1 million. There’s no registration fee or minimum fundraising goal required to participate, and funds raised support research and education programs. The American Heart Association is currently funding more than $5 million in active research in Central Ohio. 

Watson is a firm believer in giving back to the community. In addition to the Heart Association, he and his wife Linda are involved with nonprofit groups Recreation Unlimited and Flying Horse Farms and faith-based organizations in Delaware County. As a company, Greif often provides money and other support to good causes in the community.

“There is more to business than dollars and cents,” Watson says. “You’ve got to get your people engaged in a culture that cares for others. That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do here at Greif.”