Designing a sustainable organization: the four I’s framework

Børge Obel*, Pernille Kallehave

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Sustainability provides new opportunities where firms need to create a sustainable business model with the optimal fit between the rising demands of a sustainable economy and their business model, strategy, structure, incentives, human skills, IT systems, and all the other aspects of the organizational design of the firm. Sustainability creates an important driver for organizational design: the way organizations operate and the way they should be designed. New thinking is required for designing organizations focusing on: strategy, structure, processes, and human skills and values to create a sustainable organization for the future. Sustainability must penetrate all activities and all relations in the firm. Integrating such a perspective into production, communication, supply chain, marketing, as well as in strategy, structure, processes, resources, products, and customer relations takes appropriate incentives and understanding of what drives people to create impact and change the way they do things. It all comes down to: how can we create Incentives to stimulate Innovation through the Integration of sustainability in a way that creates the biggest Impact? In this point-of-view paper, we make three points: (1) Sustainability will be a major driver for business strategy now and in the future. (2) For a sustainable organization, the organization design has to follow fundamental design principles based on the four I’s: Incentives, Innovation, Integration, and Impact. (3) Within the frame of the four I’s, the design should be based on a contingency perspective.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organization Design
Pages (from-to)65-76
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Impact
  • Incentives
  • Information-processing
  • Innovation
  • Integration
  • Leadership
  • Multi-contingency
  • Organization design
  • Sustainability
  • Triple bottom line


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