Case Studies

Forward Thinking

By Marta Bright, Bobbie Hartman, Kate Pavao, Fred Sandsmark, and Alison Weiss

February 2009

The State of Global Social Networking

figure 1










Street Parking Goes High Tech

Imagine always finding street parking wherever you go. With the help of new technology, this utopian fantasy is being pursued in car-clogged San Francisco.

In a pilot program called SFpark, officials are linking together sensors embedded in parking spots, multispace parking meters, and information technology, with three interrelated goals: monitoring inventory, managing prices, and spreading information. The idea is to adjust parking pricing based on demand, in real time, so that roughly 15 percent of spaces (about one spot per block on each side of a street) is always available. It’s market pricing meets Market Street.

“It’ll be much more like selling other products,” predicts Donald Shoup, professor of urban planning at UCLA and an advisor to SFpark. And, he says, there’s a side benefit for city coffers: the city will know when motorists park without paying.

SFpark will publish real-time information about parking prices on the internet and via text message. It won’t send out specific information on available parking spaces, so (at least in theory) you won’t see distracted drivers scanning their iPhones rather than watching the road. Instead, the goal is to encourage consumers to make informed choices—perhaps, if parking is costly, to travel at another time, walk or take the bus, or shop in a different neighborhood.

It follows that better street parking will result in improved traffic flow and air quality. Research shows that about 30 percent of cars in congested urban areas are looking for parking at any given time, Shoup says, and one study he conducted in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Westwood Village showed that cars cruising for parking drove the equivalent of four round-trips to the moon in a single year. “This is in one little 15-block area,” he says. “The same thing’s happening everywhere in the world.”

SFpark’s pilot program will cover about 25 percent of metered street parking in San Francisco starting in the spring of 2009.

Green Beer?

Beer breweries are doing their part to combat climate change by making their products carbon-neutral. Among them are Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company, the U.K.’s Adnams, and Australian beer giant Foster’s (through its subsidiary Cascade Brewery).

The New Belgium Brewing Company, maker of the Fat Tire Amber Ale, was one of the first to create a green beer. They use an energy-efficient brew kettle and their building incorporates green design, such as interior wood made from fallen pines. The remaining 15 percent of its energy usage is supplied by methane from New Belgium’s wastewater processing.

Bryan Simpson, head of media relations at New Belgium Brewing Company, is not surprised by the phenomenon. “Whether companies are getting on board because it makes good business sense or because of sales is probably less important than the fact that they are actually doing something,” he says. “I think consumers are looking much harder these days at their processes and their inputs. They think about how something is made, not just the end product.”

Say It in Six

If you had to write your life story in just six words, what would you say? That’s what the editors of SMITH Magazine asked their readers—and some famous folks, like Joyce Carol Oates, Deepak Chopra, and even Stephen Colbert.

The resulting book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, ranges from inspiring (Ornette Coleman writes, “Without ideas, intelligence could never exist!”) to heartfelt (“Become more like myself every year”) to just plain weird (“My first concert: Zappa. Explains everything”).

It was such a hit with readers that the editors, Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith, published a hardcover edition in the fall of 2008 with 60 new stories. In January, they added a new volume, Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak, just in time for Valentine’s Day. (Our favorites? It’s a tie between “Will always follow you. On Twitter” and “He loved the Mac, not me.”) These books can be fun to flip through on your next flight, but the editors hope business leaders might be inspired to write, too. Crafting your own six-word story might help you find clarity, they say. “It’s the perfect way to distill your thoughts—no extraneous jargon, no space for equivocation,” Fershleiser and Smith told Profit via e-mail. “Your six-word business philosophy or six-word goal for the week might be the perfect mantra to keep you going.”

Growing Green

Brown and Wilmanns Environmental is nationally recognized for its leadership and support for cutting-edge environmental and social responsibility performance in industry, nonprofits, and government. Michael Brown, PhD, discussed with Profit how businesses must make a holistic shift in their way of thinking to become sustainable and responsible.

Profit: What market forces are driving the corporate move toward sustainable business practices?

Brown: One is a growing awareness, and the other is a growing demand among customers, and that includes both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer sectors. There was a time when we would accept a dirty environment as the price of a healthy economy. Customers are now saying, “You know, I really don’t want to live in a place that’s dirty.” To that end, the most sophisticated businesses realize that, “Oh, being dirty means we’re being really inefficient, and anything that goes up a stack, out a drain, or out as some form of waste is not going into our product.”

Profit: What role does IT play in a sustainable enterprise?

Brown: There’s a really important role for IT, which is to substitute electronic communication for paper-based or in-person communication. There are other things IT has the opportunity to do, including facilitating an exchange of information about its practices and what they do to promote sustainability.

Profit: What takeaway advice would you offer to any business looking to become more sustainable?

Brown: I would advise businesses owners not just to think about what their business does but also to examine how their business relates to its suppliers throughout the value chain, how it relates to its customers, and how it relates to the community as a whole.

Tech Events

Annual Aviation Summit
February 3-4, San Diego, California
The second annual Aviation Summit is a unique event that brings together airline and airport executives to discuss innovations and challenges in the aviation industry. This event is not about product road maps or selling; it’s intended to bring together industry thought leaders for networking and to share best practices.

Oracle Develop
February 4-5, Moscow, Russia
February 10-11, Prague, Czech Republic
Attend Oracle Develop and learn from world-leading experts about next-generation development trends and technologies. The event includes more than 35 technical sessions and hands-on labs, all led by industry experts; tracks covering Java and rich enterprise applications, database, service-oriented architecture, and more.

Oracle OpenWorld Latin America
March 10, São Paulo, Brazil
This event provides a dynamic information-sharing environment for Oracle customers, partners, and employees based in Latin America and across the globe to connect with the people, products, and trends at the forefront of business and technology.

3rd Annual Oracle Asset Lifecycle Management Summit
March 23-24, Daytona Beach, Florida
Join Oracle customers and industry professionals to engage in interactive workshops, hands-on sessions, and industry breakouts to learn about the latest Oracle Asset Lifecycle Management solutions.

Carbon-Conscious Travel

A single seat on a round-trip, transcontinental flight can add as much as 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

You can, however, neutralize your travel’s impact by trading in the global market for carbon offsets. For every activity that adds greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, you can pay someone to take them out. Popular offsetting technologies include wind power production and methane removal from farms and landfills.

The market for trading carbon offsets was set up as a result of the Kyoto Protocol, and a number of companies and nonprofit organizations can now help you access it.

“It’s easy,” says Erik Blachford, CEO of TerraPass (, which enables customers to buy carbon offsets over the Web. “You pick your flight, your airline, your class of service, and whether you are on a direct or connecting flight. Then we tell you how much carbon dioxide you’re producing.”

Offsetting a coach seat on a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to New York costs just US$11. Businesses can also purchase offsets for their total carbon footprint, including energy used by servers, auto transportation, and air conditioning.

Green Initiatives: Green Fuel/Biodiesel

South San Francisco, California-based Solazyme is making its name in the emerging area of biofuels by harnessing the power of algae. A unique microbial fermentation process allows algae to quickly produce oil in massive vessels. Algae can double its cell mass every few hours, taking the 150-million-year process of making oil and condensing it into a matter of days. In early 2008, Solazyme introduced its first algae-derived biodiesel fuel, Soladiesel, which has been tested by powering a factory-standard automobile for long distances under typical driving conditions. Soladiesel has real potential as a renewable-energy source because its chemical composition is identical to that of standard petroleum-based diesel. Soladiesel also has fewer particulate emissions and a more-desirable environmental footprint than standard petrodiesel.

The company was founded in 2003. For more information, visit

Photography by Shutterstock