In 2007, global building products company Lafarge purchased a dilapidated factory in northern Syria and invested $680 million to build and operationalize a cement plant, thus establishing a Middle East presence. But Lafarge did not foresee the political instability caused by the escalation of the Syrian civil war between President Bashar al-Assad’s military and Syrian rebel groups. Additionally, the terrorist group known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) entered the region, utilizing brutal tactics such as capture, torture, and beheadings, to spread fear and gain territorial control.
By 2012, Lafarge had a difficult decision to make: close the plant or keep it operational? Closing the plant would result in a lost investment and could put local Syrian workers and their families into dire financial situations. Conversely, keeping the plant operational could risk the safety of employees and raise critical questions about Lafarge’s ethical responsibilities amid the crisis.