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Making sustainable decisions with the Ikigai Model

Updated: May 3, 2023

In this article, I explore how the integration of the Japanese Ikigai model and the sub-question "What the world needs from us" can provide more meaningfulness at work and better environmental performance of organisations and companies. In doing so, I explore the value we place on the world, nature and our living space when making private and professional decisions.

Ikigai model

The Ikigai model is based on four pillars. In order to find meaning and fulfilment in one's professional and private life, i.e. to discover one's own personal Ikigai, it is essential to find the intersection of the following four core points: (1) what am I good at, (2) what do I particularly like to do, (3) how can I make a living and (4) what does the world need from me. In other words, how do I bring my passion, my vocation, my mission and my profession into one vessel?

Own illustration based on diagram of Marc Winn

Ikigai in the corporate context

Applied to organisations and companies, the Ikigai model can be translated into the following four pillars: (1) the company's core competence, (2) how it generates money,

(3) what drives it or what it is passionate about, and (4) its mission or what contribution it wants to make to the world. I would like to go into more detail on the last point, the mission.

In the case of non-profit organisations, the mission statement, in addition to the formulation of the vision, is central and answers precisely the question of "what does the world need from me or us". Especially in the context of climate change and what each and every one of us can do about it, this question becomes essential. So how about integrating the question "What does the world want from me?" into the decision-making processes in everyday business as well as in the strategic orientation of companies, NGOs and public bodies, and giving value to the needs of the world and nature?

Extraction Ikigai model: Mission - What the world needs.

Here some practical examples:

(1) A public corporation is constructing a new building and puts the project out to tender. Various offers are received. Among the shortlist, there is a bid that offers good quality at a good price, but covers sustainability criteria to a mediocre degree. Another offer, which is of the same quality and at the same time meets all ecological criteria, costs 10% more.

This is where our question "What does the world want from us?" comes into play again. Do we give value to "nature" in the decision criteria or not? Do we say that the 10% more expensive option could be financed, but that our decision depends purely on the price? Or do we decide that 10% higher costs are worth contributing to nature? It is up to each company and organisation to decide how to integrate the needs of the world into its decisions, or, more specifically, what percentage of the total costs ecology may be worth.

(2) Investment bankers can ask themselves what they are creating for society and the environment with their decisions. If they integrate our question into the decision-making process, small changes can have a big impact. This does not mean that they always choose the most sustainable investment, but neither does it mean that they only choose the most profitable (in the short term) option that is more harmful to nature or people. If banks clearly communicate to their investment bankers the value they can place on sustainability in their decisions, they can make an essential contribution to the world, nature and people. This is about how values are lived in everyday business.

(3) A hairdresser can also ask themselves "What does the world need from me? By incorporating this question into their decisions, they choose more environmentally friendly shampoos and contribute to the greater good. Besides the joy of the job, they can find meaning in their contribution in terms of ecology in their activity.


(1) Integration of the Ikigai model in our decision-making processes

If we integrate the question "What the world needs from us" into our personal as well as professional decisions at a percentage that we determine ourselves as a company or even as a private person, we come to different decisions than if we do not do so. This does not mean that sustainability alone influences our decisions. It does mean, however, that we give thought a fixed place and nature a value or percentage in our decision-making. For larger decisions, for example, we could work with utility analyses and the pairwise comparison matrix, where nature is integrated as a fixed criterion. This approach can become automatic, can even become part of our DNA and corporate culture.

(2) More meaningfulness for employees through integration of the IKIGAI model

In addition to the positive effect on environmental performance through the integration of our issue, this can also bring more meaningfulness to employees in their jobs. If employees know that the company attaches importance to maintaining the living space of the employees and their families, this has a positive effect on their perception of the company. This can lead to more loyalty towards the company. Furthermore, it can lead to an imitation effect in which employees pass on a sustainable way of thinking to their private environment.

I am looking forward to your comments and reflections.

Melanie Troxler

Business economist and coach for

development and change processes

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