CEO / Branding Consultant, SMO Inc.

Mikiko Saito

The ranking for most popular job destinations for new graduates reflects the values of the generation. On the other hand, even companies that aren’t on the list are still supported by a strong following of students. One such company is the Yokohama based Ohkawa Printing. Although it’s a company with over 100 years of history and its public recognition is not that high, it boasts high popularity in the job market. The secret to this success lies in its dedication to being a “Social printing company” and the contributions they have made towards regional and societal problems. 

In this way, there’s a recent boom in students choosing companies that are genuinely (an important distinction) contributing to societal problems. Current university student and student entrepreneur Kimihiro Katsumi named such a job hunting style as “ethical job hunting” and describes it as a movement of those wanting to enter companies that are dedicated to “caring about people, the earth, and society whilst understanding environmental and societal challenges”.   

Students that undertake “ethical job hunting” understand environmental problems and human rights problems as something relevant to themselves and have a desire to solve these issues through business. It can be understood as people who had previously applied to non-profits like JICA now shifting towards business. Also, many such students have experiences volunteering, living abroad, or a general interest towards countries abroad. They aren’t so concerned with the name brand of the company or its size but rather are more interested in companies such as startups or other small and medium-sized businesses that are actively working to solve societal issues. It’s just my personal opinion but I believe they are a group of students who have a strict evaluation standard. 

They have the mindset of “choosing companies rather than being chosen by companies” and they focus more on the “invisible conditions” such as their actual work within the company rather than the “visible conditions” of pay and benefits. This sort of standard became increasingly popular after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers around 2008 and it’s similar to the sort of ideals that millenials had during their job hunting process. People of course still care about material conditions but much emphasis is placed on the ideas of “What they’re working for,” the company’s Purpose, and whether they can actually make an impact on the world. Their job hunting process is not really a test about entering a corporation but rather about which job and role they’re going to be, which is more accurate to the name “job-hunting.” Since around 2019 when this ethical job-hunting came to appearance, the movement has rapidly increased as a result of climate change in 2020. This is similar to how Purpose became popular. 

So far, although I have written about the importance of “companies that are genuinely contributing to solve societal problems,” I want to place emphasis on the word “genuine” again. Many things are being exposed in our age and corporations’ attitude towards things not just limited to social challenges will be called out if seen as ingenuine and people will lose trust in that company. For example, even if a corporation claims to be a “human rights-oriented company,” it will immediately become the target of criticism if “greenwashing” is discovered. In other words, in order to be picked by skilled (or at least they’re thought to be) students who practice this “ethical job hunting” it is important that a company believes in and acts upon social responsibility and their reason for existence or in other words a company that has a clear Purpose. Now comes the age where in the same way that investors seek transparency in companies students also expect transparency from the companies they are applying to. 

In reality, the companies that get brought up when talking about ethical job-hunting are ones that have a clear reason for existence and act upon reason, even if they have not set a clear Purpose. In the case of Ohkawa Printing, they say in their official site “Corporations exist for the happiness of people and have the mission to create happiness. From Yokohama to all (Customers, region, society, nature, and ourselves) we hope to bring a smile by creating sincerity and hope to extend our gratitude”. 

So ask yourself, is your company the sort of company that will be “chosen” by skilled students? 


Mikiko Saito

CEO and Branding Consultant of SMO Inc. After starting her career at Dentsu Inc. and completing a temporary assignment at Dentsu Institute, Saito founded Saito & Co. (later changed to SMO Inc.) in 2005. She does brand consulting and trend creation work to gauge the essential value of products and assess their performance in the marketplace. In order to offer high-quality & creative marketing services, she travels the world seeking new and unique products, designs, trends, and inspiration. Saito graduated from the Department of Economics of Keio University.