The Stewards of Sustainability

Momentive Performance Materials
Written by William Young

Momentive Performance Materials was established as a brand in 2006, the result of the coming together of four different companies—including GE Advanced Materials—under one name in the silicones space. From its beginnings in private equity, Momentive developed its own unique brand name, culture, and positioning in the chemical industry over the ensuing decade-plus. Today, Momentive is potentially the only remaining pure silicones player in the world, according to Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer, Thanos Yiagopoulos.

Momentive is a global producer of silicone chemicals, derivatives, intermediates, and final silicone products that go into the full formulation of an article; essentially, “we own the whole silicone value chain,” Yiagopoulos says.

Momentive is a global, decentralized organization, employing around 5000 people across 40 locations, and has a presence in over 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.

The company’s focus on sustainable solutions has expanded industry-wide in the last couple of years, which has caused Momentive to better understand how the ecosystem is evolving, what the regulatory framework of sustainability is, and how people generally view chemical companies in that context. “Our goal is to understand the needs of the market now and how it evolves, 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 sells in 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, 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 NXT Silane tire, the only sulfur-silane solution available that can contribute to significant fuel efficiency. Momentive even produces hardcoated products, including those that enable car manufacturers to replace metal parts with polycarbonate or plastic 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 in the chemical space are focused more 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, going backwards into the 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.

As roughly 22 percent of its sales are in the automotive industry, 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.

As the company is a true force within the chemical industry, it makes a strong commitment at all levels of the organization to safety and passing that safety on to customers. Yiagopoulos explains that Momentive has a fundamental position in the chemical industry that 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 issue in the chemical industry. 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 the chemical industry as progressing strongly along a framework of sustainability. 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, will grow its presence in markets where durable silicone is required.

Yiagopoulos tells us that 2023 was a challenging year for the business, as the market was volatile, seeing a drop in demand for both specialty and commodity products. 2024, however, is being seen as a bounce-back year for Momentive, wherein it will continue to strengthen its innovation pipeline and transform its asset positioning. The company will be investing in itself, further modernizing its assets and facilities around the world.

Momentive will also see key expansions into areas of Asia like Japan and Korea, with lots of potential to penetrate these specific markets with its products. Momentive will also revisit spaces where it can have a strong position in the marketplace, like the battery and vehicle electrification spaces. 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 will push everyone in the industry into a new operating model, so Momentive is re-thinking 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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