LafargeHolcim: from corporate donation to construction skills development for ICRC engineers

What started as a corporate donation to a humanitarian organization back in 2009 has transformed into a true partnership between LafargeHolcim and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). This has resulted in sustainable assistance with water, sanitation and construction for people who are escaping or living in areas of armed conflict and other situations of violence around the world.


LafargeHolcim & ICRC: a strategic partnership

The Holcim side of the business pioneered the strategic partnership in 2010 – as one of just 12 ICRC Corporate Support Group partners.  Since then, millions of francs from the company’s donation have been directed at funding water, sanitation and construction projects in many countries including at camps both for refugees in Lebanon and for internally displaced people in northern Nigeria. It is an example of LafargeHolcim’s Plan 2030 Sustainability Strategy, one element of which is supporting people and communities. It also helps the company contribute to the delivery of a selection of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Over the years, the annual donation has extended into a broader relationship between the organizations as cooperation and training initiatives have been established, involving employees of both organizations. This resulted in expertise being shared through special courses held at Holcim’s Eclépens cement plant and laboratory near Lausanne, Switzerland for ICRC engineers on best practices concerning concrete and cement applications in challenging environments (e.g. water availability and quality).

Helping engineers in conflict zones develop construction skills

LafargeHolcim and the ICRC marked a key milestone in the skills exchange program in September this year as it is now five years since the first training course.  Since the program began, more than 50 of the ICRC’s water and habitat engineers from the field and headquarters have taken the course, which has enabled them to build large projects, like hospitals, water towers and rehabilitation centers.

The training courses are hosted by LafargeHolcim’s Antoine Carnot, Head RMX Industrial Channel, who said: “The engineers who come from the field for training often live in very dangerous places, like Sudan and Somalia.  Helping them become more efficient in the aid work they do for very vulnerable people really makes me feel that our efforts are worthwhile. And I know my colleagues are proud of the financial and skills contributions LafargeHolcim makes to these important causes.”

Each morning of the five-day course, participants take a theory lesson and put what they learn into practice in the afternoon.  They’re tested on cement and construction topics on arrival at the course and again on the last day.  A final team contest concludes the course with many new friends made and a boosted network for both Antoine and the engineers.  Occasionally, engineers who attended the course are in touch with Antoine with specific questions or problems from projects in the field.

Since last year – those attending the courses are expected to cascade the training to colleagues in their respective countries and a ‘train the trainer’ element has been added to the syllabus.  As one example, the participant from the ICRC took away the course material on his computer and cascaded the training to around 20 colleagues in the country following the training in Switzerland in 2015. This creates a ‘multiplier effect’ that begins to build competence and capacity among a broader group of people than only those able to attend the course.


LafargeHolcim’s sustainability strategy: The 2030 Plan

Sustainability has always been a part of who we are and how we want to do business. With the 2030 Plan, we are turning this core value into a set of actionable goals. One of the four pillars of the plan focuses on People and Communities.

Our relationship with the ICRC fully supports one target in this focus area which is to help 75 million people live better lives through our affordable housing solutions, inclusive business initiatives and social investments.