The Man behind Operational Excellence & Sustainability: Kumar Vijayendra’s Journey

Kumar Vijayendra witnesses consumers, especially Gen Z worldwide, increasingly value sustainability at the forefront of their decision-making. Due to social pressure, large corporations are being held accountable for their impact on the environment. This in turn creates a virtuous cycle that inspires actions to reduce waste through practices like recycling and limiting overconsumption. As large public businesses and individual consumers attempt to perfect their dance of environmental checks and balances, Vijayendra witnesses an important piece of economic contribution to population left out of the sustainability puzzle: small businesses.

“The UN found that small businesses account for more than 50 percent of global emissions,” states Vijayendra. A thought leader in the space of business transformation with a focus on small businesses, Vijayendra has nearly two decades of experience managing and transforming business operations for diverse organization types. He holds an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and began his career in India, where he catalyzed his first entrepreneurial endeavor offering small businesses one-stop financial solutions. Vijayendra has had a career managing programs for business transformation and has also served as the Executive Director of a consulting organization focused on government reforms in India. He has extensive international consulting experience in business transformation, including in the United States, Asia, and Europe.

Vijayendra’s expertise lies in improving operations and processes with sustainable business strategy at the core of it. Through his work, he began to recognize a major gap in the implementation of sustainability. “I saw that while big businesses were starting to prioritize sustainability, small businesses were not matching the pace,” he reflects. “One reason is that the pressure on small businesses to embrace sustainability is much less than that on large corporations.”

Vijayendra notes that small businesses make up approximately 99.7% of US businesses. With this large number looming over the earth’s natural resources, why are these important contributors left out of the conversation? “Because they are simply less popular than large corporations,” Vijayendra states. “Being small corner stores, barber shops, and family-owned practices, they are held less accountable by the public and the government.”

Vijayendra also recognizes a few barriers preventing small businesses from joining in the movement, even if they had the desire to do so. “It can also seem daunting,” he says, “looking at what large businesses do for the environment and attempting to imitate that.” Because small businesses are often focused on getting up and running, they can have a hard time conceptualizing a way to stay afloat in such a deep and weighty problem. Vijayendra also states that many small businesses do not understand completely what sustainability is, so it can seem like a black hole of confusing social stigma to them instead of a practical and simple mindset to adopt. 

The last barrier that Vijayendra has pinpointed lies within a misconception that sustainability is costly. “In fact, there is plenty of research to suggest that businesses that adopt sustainability as their core business strategy end up having a better financial outlook than those who do not,” says Vijayendra. This is due to Gen Z’s growing loyalty to the environment and dislike of brands that aren’t intentional with it. “Businesses that aren’t sustainable are losing public favor,” mentions Vijayendra. “Soon, it will cost more not to get involved and could be detrimental if companies are seen as careless with the world’s natural resources.”

With sustainability seeming like a confusing, overwhelming, and costly endeavor to small business owners, Vijayendra claims that it’s no surprise a large majority of small company owners haven’t even tried to incorporate it into their systems.

Yet, to the aspiring yet intimidated small business owners facing these barriers, Vijayendra shares that sustainability is often not as complicated as it looks. In order to simplify, he mentions the definition coined in 1987 by the United Nations Brundtland Commission: sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

Instead of looking at the lengthy reports that large corporations are known to publish, Vijayendra urges small businesses to tailor their thoughts in the direction of this definition and pursue sustainability as a mindset, not a task.

“The issue is often that small businesses believe they need to change their business model to embrace sustainability,” mentions Vijayendra. “This is not the way it can be done, realistically.” He holds that, instead, it’s the other way around, “In order to practically incorporate sustainability, small businesses should let go of the need for perfection and comparison with large businesses and slowly change their decision making criteria to include sustainability metrics.”

The mindset that Vijayendra claims should be leveraged is meant to be carried out by following the four Ps of business sustainability: people, planet, purpose, and profitability. When business owners ask themselves, “Is this decision good for the profit?” Vijayendra holds that they should also consider the planet, the people affected, and the overall purpose or mission statement of the company.

Essentially, Vijayendra maintains that small businesses should adopt sustainability as the core business strategy and utilize the four Ps as the evaluation metric. “This way, profits are still taken into account, products are still maximized, and audiences are still reached,” says Vijayendra. “But the planet is also considered. It’s a small but doable change as it can match small business owners’ resources.”

Vijayendra holds that this method of considering the environment costs far less than is believed but rather adds a life and world-changing factor into the mix. “Incorporating this mindset may be a miniscule change on an individual level but could be exponentially helpful to the environment if enough small businesses joined in,” he reveals.

As an educated thought leader and long-time expert in operations management, Vijayendra holds that sustainability is our shared goal – and that goal cannot be attained without active participation from small businesses around the world. “Without that,” he says, “it is like an eagle trying to soar high with just one of its wings.”

Learn more: https://iamkumarv.com/