And as the new mobility landscape takes shape—around electrification as well as connected and autonomous vehicle technology—Cabot is there to help move it forward. More sustainably.
For Cabot—and its CEO—that's a huge responsibility.
Not just in the sense that preserving the planet demands big actions. But also in the sense that what Cabot does most is support the mobility market. In fact, Cabot CEO Sean Keohane said, between 60 and 65 percent of the company's annual sales are tied to mobility.
So if Cabot intends to grow and thrive and innovate for a brand new mobility market, it has to get every aspect of sustainability and product performance right.
"The world is going through this incredible transition, driven by the rise of the sustainability agenda in this transition of mobility. And I mean, this transition in mobility is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Keohane said. "And mobility is important to Cabot, so we better get that right.
"The long-term health and strength of the company requires that I get that right. I feel that it is my obligation as the leader of the company to be sure that we get that right."
Keohane, after all, is leading a company that for more than 140 years has gotten a lot of things right. Cabot has adapted and grown by innovating to meet the changing demands of the industries it serves. It has—every step of the way—met the moment.
And in this moment, Cabot's innovation matters.
Its chemistry matters.
"I think our industry—the chemistry industry—has such an important role to play here because most of these big, sustainability challenges, at their core, are really chemistry challenges," Keohane said.
"You can electrify the fleet, but you have got to improve the battery range to satisfy all customers. You have got to be able to scale this up to serve this massive industry that makes 80 (million) or 90 million cars a year. I mean, these are just huge chemistry challenges."
The kinds of challenges, he contends, for which Cabot is positioned to offer solutions.
Take tires, as an example. EVs are demanding more from them. Tires have to last longer, carry heavier loads, improve vehicle range and stand up to increased torque and regenerative braking. And they must do all of that with more sustainable materials than ever before.
"We really see the needs from our customers to use more circular content in our products, to try to find ways to be more sustainable," Keohane said.
So Cabot is working to get them exactly the kind of materials they need.
In March, the company debuted its Evolve platform, which clearly articulates the plan for its portfolio of tire-related materials. Through Evolve, Cabot commits to product development that leverages:
Circular value chains by turning to materials recovered from end-of-life tires;
Renewable and bio-based materials; and
Processes that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
And as it innovates and grows its product offerings, Cabot will focus on recovered materials, renewable sources and reduced carbon footprints. When debuting its Evolve vision, Cabot detailed these initiatives as:
Unsplash photo by Shadrach Warid
Recovered: Developing reinforcing carbons from circular value chains that are produced using materials recovered from end-of-life-tires—tire pyrolysis oils through an ISCC Plus mass balance approach, for instance—or reclaimed carbons co-pelletized with virgin carbon blacks.
Renewable: Developing reinforcing carbons made from renewable materials, such as bio-based feedstocks through an ISCC Plus mass balance approach and from bio-based particles.
Reduced: Developing reinforcing carbons made with a reduced GHG footprint from decarbonization technologies, such as emissions capture technologies and other decarbonization processes such as CO2 capture and sequestration.
"I think the Evolve platform was a really comprehensive way for us to articulate to the industry how we are going at this (sustainability and circularity)," Keohane said. "We are going at it by innovating around products, around renewable sources. We are going at it by trying to develop and upgrade products that come from their recovered or recycled chain. And we are also going at it with products that reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of these carbon black materials for tires."
For Cabot, though, more sustainable automotive solutions don't start or end with tires.
"Of course our materials that go into tires are a big piece, but broadly speaking our materials go into the adhesives that bond the windshield to the car, to the coatings on the car, to the structural adhesives that lightweight the car, to lithium-ion batteries that go into electrification," Keohane added. "So when you add it all up, mobility is hugely important.
"And this shift to EVs from internal combustion engines, it will be a lot more than just simply about batteries—though that is a big thing."
During a first-quarter call with investors, Keohane noted that he expects global demand for battery materials, such as its conductive additives, to grow between 20 and 30 percent throughout the coming decade. And the U.S., the company noted, could be poised to outpace global growth, given the anticipated acceleration in adoption of electric vehicles.
"Our conductive additives are a critical part of the battery chemistry (as it) basically creates the conductive pathway for electrons to flow in charging and discharging of batteries," Keohane said. "We have been public about this, about growing our participation in this space."