The name of our company, Benesse, was coined by combining the Latin roots “bene” (well) and “esse” (being). In other words, Benesse means “well-being”. In recent years, interest has been growing around the concept of well-being, which refers to mental, physical, and social health. Well-being has been at the core of our corporate philosophy since 1990, and we have continued to pursue it through our business activities. In addition, the Benesse Education Research and Development Institute (BERD) has been engaged in dialogue and research based on the subject of well-being. In a society where times and environment of change constantly, what do we need to achieve and maintain well-being? We take a look at this topic as discussed at the Sustainable Brands 2022 Yokohama global conference.

Survey of young professionals suggests “learning with others” is key to well-being

At the Sustainable Brands 2022 Yokohama global conference held on February 24, Shumpei Komura from Benesse Education Research and Development Institute (BERD) facilitated the session, “Thinking about Well-being in the Future through Dialogue with Generation Z.”

Facilitator for the session, Shumpei Komura, BERD.

At the beginning of the session, Komura introduced the results of the “Quantitative Survey of Well-Being and Learning among Young Professionals,” released in February by BERD, Jun Nakahara of Rikkyo University, and the Persol Research Institute.

“Those surveyed had all entered the workforce and were aged between 25 to 35. Interestingly, the survey showed that people who are happy in their jobs, are also people who learn through social learning: observing and interacting with others. In other words, learning with others is key to feeling happy in your job, especially when it comes to well-being.”

The survey revealed five learning characteristics associated with the happiness of young professionals in the workplace. Out of these five, data suggests that learning with others in a social learning environment is common to all surveyed.

What well-being means to the leaders of the future, Generation Z: connecting people to achieve well-being for all

What do the future leaders of society, young professionals of the so-called Generation Z, think about well-being? The three panelists participating in the discussion were all from very different fields.

From the left: Shunki Kubo (first year graduate at Okayama University Graduate School), CEO of ABABA Inc, a company offering a specialized service for new graduate recruitment; Chika Ezure (third year undergraduate at Tsuda University, currently on leave), CEO of Essay Inc. an e-commerce brand focused on empowering women; and Shoei Hirata, a third year at Ikubunkan Global High School (at time of the session).

Although all the panelists are students, they are also engaged in activities to help solve social problems. How did they first come to be interested in social issues?

Mr. Hirata: “I chose the integrated selection examination system (*1) for university entrance because it makes use of the research presentations and study abroad experience I had in my first and second years of high school. I took some time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life, and it helped me realize that this style of exam was the best way for me to achieve my full potential. My own experience is incorporated into the support system I have established for students who are considering the integrated selection system.”

Mr. Kubo: “At ABABA we provide a service for students who did not make it past the final round of job interviews. We recommend companies for them to apply to, based on an evaluation of their activities and learning. I began this company after watching a close friend struggle with the job-hunting system. I wanted to bring about a change in that environment, to ensure that people did not suffer the same kind of mental stress he did, and so I established ABABA in my fourth year of university.”

Mr. Kubo launched his recruitment service for new graduates after watching his friend suffer severe disappointment when he did not make it past the final job interview stage.

Ms. Ezure: “I felt there was something wrong with the way women’s bodies and underwear were being represented in online advertising, so I decided to conduct a series of interviews to find out why I felt this way. I launched the “I_for ME” brand to learn about the needs and concerns of women who are reluctant to speak out about their bodies, and to raise these issues with society.”

As they share their experiences, the panelists reveal their reasons for becoming involved in society’s issues. When Mr. Komura asked, “What does well-being mean to you?” the panelists talked about their own experiences and how it led them to where they are now.

Mr. Hirata: “For me, well-being comes from being completely immersed in something. To do that, first we need to discover what it is that we really enjoy doing. You need to keep looking deep inside and find out what it is that makes you truly happy.

Ms. Ezure: “Finding something that I can completely immerse myself is very important. At the same time, when it comes to maintaining well-being, you need to cultivate a strong support network. You need to be able to accept your weaknesses and know when and how to depend on the people and resources around you.

Taking “immersion” as a common thread, Mr. Komura moved onto the next question.

Mr. Komura: “After listening to you both, I feel that self-reflection and truly knowing yourself are important for well-being. At the same time, the three of you are not thinking of these issues as something that affect only you as individuals, but have been inspired to help other’s find their well-being. What do you think it is that made you move from thinking of how to help yourself, to thinking of how you can help other people?”

Ms. Ezure: “It’s not so much a conscious desire to help others, it’s more that I realized that the solutions I found for myself could also help other people. There is no “I want to fix society” moment. It begins with wanting to help yourself, and to help those closest, and goes from there.”

Mr. Kubo: “Our company motto is ‘Help your neighbor as you would yourself.’ Everything I have done up to this point has come from a desire to help my friends, and the people around me, to find solutions to their problems. Business in its purest form is about being rewarded for making people happy, and I aim to be the kind of entrepreneur who will always be there to help a neighbor.”

(*1) Integrated selection examination. Formally called AO examination. The exam is made up of questions, essays, interviews and other elements to evaluate the student’s skills and potential in a more comprehensive way than standard question-based exams.

Creating a future where everyone can be happy in the roles they choose: defining well-being through dialogue with people of all generations

After the session, we spoke to Mr. Komura.

“The three panelists were all very different individuals. Yet, they all had in common a well-established sense of self-value, and the desire to help society in general. Generation Z are said to be more focused on social issues than other generations, but from this dialogue, it seems that the motivation does not come from a wish to change society, it is more about helping the people around them - which in turn helps to bring about change. At the same time, they value their own beliefs without forcing them on to someone else, choosing to find like-minded people to connect with instead.”

“With the recent survey and this session, we have been trying to discover what well-being will look like in the future. For me, an important element of well-being is being able to choose for oneself. But it is also about hoping that the choices we make will improve us and society.”

“Well-being is not something that we take from others. One person’s happiness does not negatively affect another. Well-being is about valuing your own opinions and happiness, while learning through our relationships and interactions how to consider the happiness of society as a whole.”

“I took part in the global forum for OECD’s Education 2030 project, where the discussion focused on well-being as a future goal of education. For Benesse, well-being means “living a life well,” but as times change, how this is defined changes too. We will continue with research and dialogues to question the nature of education and well-being, and hope to lead the way to a future where everyone can realize happiness in their own way.”


Sustainable Brands 2022 Yokohama
Sustainable Brands is a global community of brand leaders, established in California, USA in 2006, who present global conferences in over 10 countries worldwide in the interest of education and innovation. Continuing from last year, this year’s theme for global events looked beyond sustainability to Regeneration. Now in its sixth year in Japan, the event is the largest SDG event in the country, hosting over 200 speakers across 2 days for more than 70 sessions.

Quantitative Survey of Well-Being and Learning among Young Professionals