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  • Hervé Dewintre

Ikigai and social responsibility: a perfect combination

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

ESMOD’s CSR specialist and coordinator Caroline Bouquin, a real connoisseur of the ikigai concept with a passion for product design, outlines the group’s philosophy when it comes to social responsibility.

Caroline Bouquin is a lead design engineer in the fields of industrial product design and mechanical and production engineering. Throughout her career, she has been involved in a number of large-scale projects such as the design of the Eurotunnel shuttles and even Ariane V, including the implementation of a new 3D design tool at the Renault Technocentre. Such large-scale industrial projects triggered an interest in the tool that the concept of ikigai represents, and it’s easy to see why. The concept itself is strongly rooted in Okinawan culture and has long enabled many people to bring a sense of meaning to their working lives. Companies also like to incorporate it into their strategies, governance and production practices. Having taken up her role at ESMOD in 2019, Caroline, who became the group’s CSR specialist & coordinator having taken the intensive Design course and the intensive Business course, outlines the fruitful links that exist between the active principles that govern this Japanese philosophy and the many initiatives that ESMOD undertakes in terms of corporate responsibility.

Planet Esmod: How would you define ikigai?

Caroline Bouquin: Ikigai is a Japanese concept made up of the terms “iki” (生き), meaning “life” or “living”, and “kai”, which becomes “gai” (甲斐) in this case and means “value” or “reason”. The “reason” in this case refers to the meaning of life. The term ikigai can therefore be translated as “reason for being”, “reason for living”, “joy of living” or even “purpose of existence”. It’s the sense of achievement we get when we do what we are passionate about, whatever it is that motivates us. It’s an ideal of life, and it’s possible to have one or more ikigai over the course of one’s lifetime.

How did you become aware of this philosophy? Could you recommend any reference books?

For me, it is a powerful tool that I’ve discovered over the course of my lifelong research on the meaning of life. I’m still looking for that. Ikigai has the power to transform your entire existence because the ultimate goal is to achieve happiness and serenity in your day-to-day life. According to best-selling book “Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life”, by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, the 10 rules of ikigai are as follows: 1. stay active, 2. take it slow, 3. don't fill your stomach, 4. surround yourself with good friends, 5. get in shape, 6. smile, 7. reconnect with nature, 8. give thanks, 9. live in the moment, and 10. follow your ikigai.

The two authors have also published “The Ikigai Journey”, from which I'd like to share a quote, on the same theme: “What we can achieve in life is limited only by the reach of our imagination”. The aim of the book is to allow you to find your ikigai through various techniques and practical exercises, with the added bonus of a roadmap at the end of the book with 35 keys to help you live your ikigai to the full.

This philosophy applies to both individuals and legal entities. How do you think ikigai can be incorporated into the life of a company?

Fruitful links can and must be maintained between the world of business and the philosophy that ikigai advocates. Such interactions are perfectly explained in the excellent book “L'IKIGAI de Marque”, by Sébastien Tortu and Franck Gautier, published by Dunod. (Editor’s note: Sebastien Tortu is a physical and digital retail specialist and Franck Gautier is a consultant in company growth strategy and a growth marketing specialist). The two experts remind us that ikigai is itself a reminder of the importance of developing a sustainable company aligned with its values, one that is useful to others and one whose products or services it seems only right to pay for. I’d particularly recommend this book because it comes with a methodology that is based on four pillars, namely reflection, modelling, reinvention and action.

CSR has become a major part of what a company is and does in recent years, and rightly so. Could you define the pillars and actions that, in your opinion, define the permanence and relevance of the CSR policy put in place by ESMOD?

As far as the ESMOD group is concerned, the only possible future will be collective, cooperative and regenerative. With a firm belief in the importance of this statement, our network of schools is developing an ecosystem that combines technology, inclusiveness, influence, design and bio-mimicry. Responsible choices that will stand the test of time and that reflect the ethics of our group and its solid values are applied at all levels and expressed through a number of significant collaborations. At the initiative of Véronique Beaumont, for example, ESMOD participates in the Convention des Entreprises pour le Climat (Business Convention for the Climate, CEC), which brings together some 150 companies operating within the French economy to reflect upon how to they can make their economic models regenerative. This leads to cooperative initiatives spanning all fields and gives rise to some extremely rich reflection upon the solutions that we can bring to light and develop, as a result of which 150 roadmaps are to be presented to the government following nine months of reflection. ESMOD is also a member of the Paris Good Fashion movement, which brings together various players in the fashion industry, including brands, designers and experts who are committed to taking practical steps towards ensuring that the fashion industry is respectful of both the environment and human rights by 2024. Our cooperation with the BALI (Biarritz Active Lifestyle Industry) Chair, which was founded in 2017 under the impetus of a number of industrial and academic players in the fashion sector, has also grown. The reflections focus largely on circularity as a matter of central importance, the aim being to raise awareness of the entire life cycle of a product from as early as the design stage. Our collaboration with Refashion, the eco-organisation within the clothing textiles, household linen and footwear industry, is also worthy of mention. In more general terms, I would say that ESMOD, not only as a company and as a group of companies but also as a training body, places even greater importance on social responsibility, on the one hand in order to lead by example and on the other to ensure that our students understand what companies now expect of them. There are therefore multiple issues at stake here. I’d like to conclude by pointing out that ESMOD is working to position itself as a responsible company where the future of humanity is concerned and is keen to share this awareness with students so that they themselves will be able to foster this new way of living and prospering within the companies they go on to join or create.

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