The Stewards of Sustainability

Momentive Performance Materials
Written by William Young

Momentive Performance Materials (Momentive), a premier global advanced materials company with a legacy dating back to the 1940s, has a unique brand, culture, and position in the silicones and specialty products industry. So unique, in fact, that today, Momentive may be one of the only remaining pure silicones companies in the world, according to Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer Thanos Yiagopoulos.

Momentive is a global producer of silicones and specialty solutions. This includes derivatives, intermediates, and final silicone materials that go into the full formulation of a product; essentially, “we contribute to every step of the silicone value chain,” Yiagopoulos says.

Momentive is a global, decentralized organization, employing around 5000 people across 40 locations, and has a presence in more than 20 vertical markets, including automotive, consumer electronics, agriculture, health care, and more. The core of Momentive’s identity is creating materials that are game-changing for the final applications they are used in. This philosophy is filtered through the lens of sustainability, and the company’s processes involve helping its customers develop solutions and drive a more sustainable world by doing so.

Throughout the last decade, the silicones industry’s, and the broader supply chain’s, focus on sustainable solutions has grown and continues to expand. Momentive’s actions align with this movement, perhaps even contributing to enhancing the priority placed on sustainability. The company works to understand how the ecosystem and related regulatory framework are evolving, and how customers perceive manufacturing and silicones companies. “Our goals are to understand the needs of the market now and how those needs evolve, and to design products for the present market and the future,” Yiagopoulos says.

To this end, Momentive focuses on the vertical markets it is active in and the needs of its customers within; for example, Momentive enables solutions for three different areas of personal care, including skin care, hair care, and color cosmetics. The company is also deep into providing thermal protection for electronics, such as its silicone gap filler, SILCOOLTM, which allows for control and protective flow of heat that doesn’t impact battery or performance.

Momentive also provides applications that drive sustainability in the marketplace, like its proprietary NXTTM Silane tire, one of the only sulfur-silane solutions available that can contribute to significant fuel efficiency. Momentive even produces hardcoats solutions that enable car manufacturers to replace metal parts with lighter-weight parts coated with its own AS4700 thermal product, allowing for exceptional abrasion and weather resistance, and reducing the weight of an electric vehicle and its energy usage.

Currently, some of Momentive’s peers are focused on producing large-scale silicone intermediates, while others are deliberately focused on specific vertical markets and application development, instead of materials. Momentive is a material solutions provider and is in the unique position of providing those solutions with the knowledge of the application and the design of the material. The company’s uniqueness lies in understanding an application, employing its rich knowledge of silicone chemistry to design materials for that application, and delivering for its customers in a way that is sustainable and profitable for everyone.

At Momentive, sustainability isn’t just something that drives the customer-facing practices of the business; it has also impacted the company’s internal development. Momentive has refined a number of its internal practices with respect to management systems and sustainability, looking further into product lines that support sustainability and procuring biodegradable materials or those coming from natural sources.

A large supplier for the mobility industry, from auto to electric and hybrid, Momentive has consciously shifted in product development toward aligning with the electrification of transportation. It has also shifted its focus to products that are aligned to the needs of the battery industry globally; products targeting the need to reduce the waste and weight of vehicles; and products that protect surfaces in vehicles and allow autonomous driving.

The company also maintains a strong commitment at all levels of the organization to safety, for its team members and for its customers. Yiagopoulos explains that Momentive believes every injury or risk is preventable, so the team has undertaken a series of safety initiatives related to occupational safety and product and plant design. Specifically, from a design perspective, Momentive aims to embed the thinking of hazard-free design into its products and understands the need to create an environment where process design is inherently safe.

The team makes an equally significant commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which Yiagopoulos says is very important to him personally because of the number of studies that highlight the link between creativity, diversity, and innovation. To achieve this, Momentive focuses on people, communication, and environment within the context of treating its employees equitably. The company gives everyone the ability to understand their own needs and to forge a personal development plan and fulfilling career path. This approach pairs well with the company’s stance on gender diversity, which has been a persistent challenge in the manufacturing and silicones industries. Momentive has programs aimed at creating a gender-diverse population at all levels of the organization, a process that is seeing good progress.

From Momentive’s standpoint, Yiagopoulos sees a framework of sustainability becoming more central to all businesses. In the future, silicones will be the material of choice in certain vertical markets as other materials simply cannot provide the same level of longevity, performance, and integrity of devices. The industry is moving in these directions, so Momentive, always agile, focuses on current and potential future megatrends and aligns its research and development to meet customers’ current and future needs.

Yiagopoulos acknowledges that 2023 was a challenging year for many industries, as the market was volatile, seeing a drop in demand for both specialty and commodity products. 2024, however, may be a bounce-back year for the silicones industry. Momentive, specifically, is continuing to strengthen its innovation pipeline and transform its asset positioning. The company is also investing in itself, further modernizing its assets and facilities around the world.

Momentive is also expanding globally, with more than 4,000 customers in 100-plus countries. This includes opening a new office in Bangkok, Thailand and a Global Innovation Center in Pearl River, New York, United States. Institutional markets will continue to transition, so Momentive will strive to understand its position within it, with the overall question being what its future as a pure silicone player is.

Yiagopoulos says that the key element to sustainability is that it’s not about a singular product; it’s about the way the company treats its people, the systems it establishes, and the value it places on safety, integrity, and inclusion. Sustainability is pushing companies to examine their operating models. Momentive is no stranger to this and has proactively examined its processes with respect to product design, recycling, and reuse of materials, in a circular manner instead of a linear one.

“We are the stewards of sustainability,” Yiagopoulos says, and thus the Momentive product suite will continue to have a place in helping others forge their own paths to sustainability.

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