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Cabot Corporation: Progressing in Sustainability through Innovation and Collaboration

At Cabot Corporation, we are proud of our nearly 140-year legacy and the reputation we have built as one of the world's foremost specialty chemicals and performance materials companies. We understand the role we play in leading and setting an example in our industry and know that we must live up to our responsibilities, honor our commitments and be accountable to our stakeholders.

We have a long history as a participant in the circular economy. Our core product portfolio depends on raw materials that otherwise would be considered waste. For instance, our carbon black begins with feedstock that is generally considered to be low value byproducts of the petroleum refining supply chain. In addition, our fumed metal oxides are produced by converting a waste acid into a key ingredient used in the silicones supply chain. Throughout the years we have continued to grow and innovate by finding ways to use others’ waste and byproducts to make beneficial products for our customers. We are committed to finding ways to further transform the linear economy into a circular one, to help progress our commitment to sustainability and minimize our overall impact on the world.

We have also undertaken a variety of initiatives to help us advance our environmental performance. For example, we have implemented several energy center projects that make beneficial use of the waste heat energy and steam generated from our manufacturing processes, which creates clean energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions for our partners and customers by offsetting fossil fuel use. Many of these efforts have been in place within Cabot since we launched our first set of public sustainability goals in 2008. These goals focused primarily on the environmental performance of our facilities or nearby partners.

As we proceed in our sustainability journey, we have a clear commitment to transparency and accountability surrounding our efforts. We have broadened our view of sustainability to extend beyond our environmental footprint and aligned our sustainability program around eleven material topics that address many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These material topics help us focus our attention on what matters most to our business, employees, communities and other stakeholders.

Our role in the supply chain affords us the unique privilege of being able to innovate to help our customers address their critical sustainability challenges.  While these initiatives don’t always have the clear measurement targets in place in the same way as environmental targets, we believe that achieving our vision to  “be the most innovative, respected and responsible leader in our markets – delivering performance that makes a difference” requires a relentless pursuit of sustainability in everything we do, even when it becomes difficult to define and measure.

Increasingly, our customers and other stakeholders drive us to think holistically about our footprint, and find ways to break the trade-offs between the very clear benefits that our materials bring and the long-term life cycle costs of our products. A key focus of our research and development efforts includes consideration of the sustainability benefits of our products. We recently developed our new slate of 2025 sustainability goals, which includes goals to assess the sustainability impacts of our top product applications and their position in the circular economy while working to ensure that 100% of our product and process development projects will have a sustainability benefit.

We have numerous examples of this throughout our businesses and are making strategic investments to further our involvement in a variety of key applications that result in clear sustainability benefits. Two specific areas that we are seeing significant opportunity is in developing materials and formulations for battery and tire applications. As we continue to see growth in the electrification of vehicles, lithium-ion batteries play an essential role. Over the last few years, we have been investing in our assets, product portfolio and customer qualifications to build a long-term position in this valuable high growth application, while focusing on research and development initiatives to improve the sustainability performance of these batteries. Our LITX® family of conductive carbon additives plays an integral role in battery chemistry and improving overall battery performance, and we continue to innovate for continued improvement in this space.

For tire applications, many customers are looking for opportunities to extend product life as well as increase fuel economy. These objectives can be optimized through our Engineered Elastomer Composites (E2C). E2C has the potential to transform key applications in the tire industry over time, by driving greater wear performance. The unique mixing technology enables greater performance of rubber, leading to a more sustainable product. After achieving commercial validation with a major global tire producer, our efforts moving forward are focused on driving broader adoption and continued penetration into a range of tire applications.

Our efforts to develop products that address sustainability challenges not only help strengthen our business but also create positive impacts for our customers. We participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in order to share our greenhouse gas emissions data. We also are an active participant in and responsive to customer inquiries related to sustainability information. For this, EcoVadis has proven to be effective, and we are seeing many of our customers use this platform for gaining insight into their supply chain. We are proud of the positive responses we have received from customers engaging with us in this way, and of the high scores we have earned over the year.

Furthermore, we are a proud signatory of the United Nations Global Compact and seek to drive awareness and action to support progress on the SDGs through our efforts. We communicate progress on our sustainability strategy, goal performance and achievements through our annual sustainability report. We are proud that we continue to make progress in transparency, and that, for the first time, our 2019 Sustainability Report also includes reporting based on the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) framework, in addition to Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards.

We know that with our history of innovation and our commitment to leadership, we will continue to deliver solutions that make a difference today and well into the future.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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