Chart: What Does it Cost to Run Big Business?
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What Does it Cost to Run Big Business?

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The cost to run big business

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The Briefing

  • The cost of running a Fortune 500 company can easily exceed $100 billion annually
  • Walmart’s operating costs in 2020 were equal to 70% of U.S. military spending

What Does it Cost to Run Big Business?

How much does it cost to run one of America’s largest corporations? For household names like Apple, Costco and Walmart, well over $100 billion each year.

To get a better sense of their massive scale, this chart compiles financial data from some of the largest Fortune 500 companies, and includes U.S. military spending as an additional point of comparison.

EntityCost of Operations, USD billionsRevenues, USD billionsOperating Margin, %
U.S. Military Spending$778N/AN/A
Walmart$537$5594%
Amazon$363$3866%
Apple$170$27538%
CVS Health$255$2695%
Berkshire Hathaway$231$2466%
Alphabet$142$18322%
ExxonMobil$210$182-15%
AT&T$165$1724%
Costco Wholesale$161$1674%

To determine each company’s total cost of operations, we combined its selling, general & administrative expense (SG&A) and its cost of goods sold (COGS).

SG&A covers all of the costs associated with selling products and services, as well as managing day-to-day operations. This includes employee salaries, office rent, and marketing expenses. COGS refers to any costs directly associated with producing goods, such as raw materials and labor.

Operating Costs vs. Military Spending

At $778 billion, U.S. military spending in 2020 was the highest in the world. It dwarfs that of China, which took second place with $252 billion in spending. Beyond these two, there are no other countries that spent more than $100 billion on defense.

Massive government budgets like this may seem untouchable, but today’s chart proves otherwise. As the largest employer and retailer in America, Walmart spent $537 billion (70% of U.S military spending) to keep itself running.

Combine this with Amazon’s operating costs, and we reach $900 billion in expenses (16% more than U.S. military spending).

More Costs Doesn’t Mean More Profits

These businesses may be expensive to run, but how good are they at making money?

This can be measured by operating margin, which determines how much profit is generated from each dollar of revenue, after operating costs are deducted. We calculate it with a simple formula: operating earnings divided by revenues. Operating earnings are revenues less SG&A and COGS.

From the companies in this graphic, Apple had the greatest operating margin at 38%. Walmart was at the opposite end of the scale with a 4% margin.

This highlights the differences in business strategy. Walmart’s competitive advantage is cost leadership, meaning it strives to beat its competitors by offering the lowest prices possible. The retailer’s sheer scale (4,743 locations across the U.S.) is what enables this strategy to be effective.

Apple, on the other hand, combines strong branding and premium quality to command a high price for its products. This results in greater margins and valuations—at the time of writing, Apple is the world’s most valuable corporation with a market cap of $2.4 trillion.

Where does this data come from?

Source: SEC (2021), SIPRI
Notes: Cost of operations includes selling, general & administrative expenses (SG&A) and cost of goods sold (COGS).

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Datastream

Visualizing Companies with the Most Patents Granted in 2021

Companies around the world invest billions in R&D to provide cutting-edge innovation to their products and services.

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companies with the most patents

The Briefing

  • In 2021, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted a total of 327,798 utility patents
  • For almost three decades, IBM has been granted more patents each year than any other U.S. company

Visualizing Companies with the Most Patents Granted in 2021

Companies around the world invest billions in R&D to provide cutting-edge innovation to their products and services. In order to protect these investments, companies apply for patents. Therefore, the number of utility patents a company is granted can be considered a rough measure of its level of innovation.

Every year, the Patent 300 List identifies America’s most innovative companies within the intellectual property space by analyzing the patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

In 2021, the USPTO granted a total of 327,798 utility patents, down 7% from the previous year. Let’s take a look at which companies generated the most patents in 2021.

RankCountryCompany/Organization2021
Patents
Change
from 2020
1🇺🇸 U.S.International Business Machines Corporation8,540-9%
2🇰🇷 South KoreaSamsung Electronics Co., Ltd.8,5170%
3🇰🇷 South KoreaLg Corporation4,388-13%
4🇯🇵 JapanCanon K.K.3,400-8%
5🇨🇳 ChinaHuawei Technologies Co., Ltd.2,955-7%
6🇺🇸 U.S.Intel Corporation2,835-14%
7🇹🇼 TaiwanTaiwan Semiconductor Mfg. Co. Ltd.2,807-3%
8🇯🇵 JapanToyota Jidosha K.K.2,753-2%
9🇺🇸 U.S.Raytheon Technologies Corporation2,694-16%
10🇯🇵 JapanSony Corporation2,624-9%

For 29 consecutive years, IBM has led U.S. companies in the number of patents received annually. In 2021, the company received 8,540 patents, a 9% decline from the previous year.

IBM’s innovations are focused on solving major global challenges, and cover areas such as sustainable growth, climate change, and preventing future pandemics, as well as initiatives enabling food and energy security. They aim to address these problems through a blend of high-performance computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum computing.

One of IBM’s most noteworthy innovations in 2021 was their new quantum processor called Eagle, which broke the 100-qubit barrier to bring quantum computing into a new era. This processor has the ability to solve problems that classical computers can’t, giving it the potential to bring real-world benefits to different fields from renewable energy to finance and more.

Samsung: A Close Second Innovator

Samsung Electronics is one of the biggest innovators over the last decade. In 2021, the company got 8,517 patents granted by the USPTO, a close second to IBM.

The company’s patent-winning innovations take place in several areas, including virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), 5G technologies, and autonomous driving.

The Technology Sector Dominates Utility Patents

Unsurprisingly, out of the top 25 companies with the most patents granted in 2021, 16 of them belong to the technology sector.

However, utility patents are not only limited to tech companies.

In fact, companies from all sectors apply for patents every year. Patents are great assets for companies since they give them exclusive commercial rights for their inventions and protect them from competition. This is one of the main reasons we see companies getting thousands of new patents every year.

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Russia Has Been Suspended From the UN Human Rights Council

Here’s how the global community voted on the resolution: In favor – 93 | Abstained – 58 | Against – 24

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Visualization showing Russia's suspension from UN Human Rights Council. 93 countries voted for the resolution, 24 against

The Briefing

  • 93 countries voted in favor of suspending Russia from the UN’s Human Rights Council, including all NATO member countries
  • 24 countries voted against the resolution, including; China, Iran, and North Korea

Russia Has Been Suspended From the UN Human Rights Council

On April 7, 2022, the United Nations suspended Russia from its seat on the Human Rights Council.

This suspension comes amid growing condemnation of Russia over alleged civilian murders committed by Russian troops in Ukraine. Widely distributed videos appear to show the bodies of civilians scattered along the streets in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

To be approved, the resolution required a two-thirds majority of assembly members that vote “yes” or “no”. Here is a complete list of how countries voted:

CountryVoteNATO MemberFormer Soviet Union
🇦🇩 AndorraIn favor
🇦🇫 Afghanistan--
🇦🇬 Antigua and BarbudaIn favor
🇦🇱 AlbaniaIn favor
✔️
🇦🇲 Armenia--
✔️
🇦🇴 AngolaAbstained
🇦🇷 ArgentinaIn favor
🇦🇹 AustriaIn favor
🇦🇺 AustraliaIn favor
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan--
✔️
🇧🇧 BarbadosAbstained
🇧🇩 BangladeshAbstained
🇧🇪 BelgiumIn favor
✔️
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso--
🇧🇬 BulgariaIn favor
✔️
🇧🇭 BahrainAbstained
🇧🇮 BurundiAgainst
🇧🇯 Benin--
🇧🇳 Brunei DarussalamAbstained
🇧🇴 BoliviaAgainst
🇧🇷 BrazilAbstained
🇧🇸 BahamasIn favor
🇧🇹 BhutanAbstained
🇧🇼 BotswanaAbstained
🇧🇾 BelarusAgainst
✔️
🇧🇿 BelizeAbstained
🇨🇦 CanadaIn favor
✔️
🇨🇩 Dem. Republic of the CongoIn favor
🇨🇫 Central African RepublicAgainst
🇨🇬 Republic of the CongoAgainst
🇨🇭 SwitzerlandIn favor
🇨🇮 Côte d’IvoireIn favor
🇨🇱 ChileIn favor
🇨🇲 CameroonAbstained
🇨🇳 ChinaAgainst
🇨🇴 ColombiaIn favor
🇨🇷 Costa RicaIn favor
🇨🇺 CubaAgainst
🇨🇻 Cabo VerdeAbstained
🇨🇾 CyprusIn favor
🇨🇿 Czech RepublicIn favor
✔️
🇩🇪 GermanyIn favor
✔️
🇩🇯 Djibouti--
🇩🇰 DenmarkIn favor
✔️
🇩🇲 DominicaIn favor
🇩🇴 Dominican RepublicIn favor
🇩🇿 AlgeriaAgainst
🇪🇨 EcuadorIn favor
🇪🇪 EstoniaIn favor
✔️
✔️
🇪🇬 EgyptAbstained
🇪🇷 EritreaAgainst
🇪🇸 SpainIn favor
✔️
🇪🇹 EthiopiaAgainst
🇫🇮 FinlandIn favor
🇫🇯 FijiIn favor
🇫🇲 MicronesiaIn favor
🇫🇷 FranceIn favor
✔️
🇬🇦 GabonAgainst
🇬🇩 GrenadaIn favor
🇬🇪 GeorgiaIn favor
✔️
🇬🇭 GhanaAbstained
🇬🇲 GambiaAbstained
🇬🇳 Guinea--
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea--
🇬🇷 GreeceIn favor
✔️
🇬🇹 GuatemalaIn favor
🇬🇼 Guinea-BissauAbstained
🇬🇾 GuyanaAbstained
🇭🇳 HondurasIn favor
🇭🇷 CroatiaIn favor
✔️
🇭🇹 HaitiIn favor
🇭🇺 HungaryIn favor
✔️
🇮🇩 IndonesiaAbstained
🇮🇪 IrelandIn favor
🇮🇱 IsraelIn favor
🇮🇳 IndiaAbstained
🇮🇶 IraqAbstained
🇮🇷 IranAgainst
🇮🇸 IcelandIn favor
✔️
🇮🇹 ItalyIn favor
✔️
🇯🇲 JamaicaIn favor
🇯🇴 JordanAbstained
🇯🇵 JapanIn favor
🇰🇪 KenyaAbstained
🇰🇬 KyrgyzstanAgainst
✔️
🇰🇭 CambodiaAbstained
🇰🇮 KiribatiIn favor
🇰🇲 ComorosIn favor
🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and NevisAbstained
🇰🇵 North KoreaAgainst
🇰🇷 South KoreaIn favor
🇰🇼 KuwaitAbstained
🇰🇿 KazakhstanAgainst
✔️
🇱🇦 LaosAgainst
🇱🇧 Lebanon--
🇱🇨 Saint LuciaIn favor
🇱🇮 LiechtensteinIn favor
🇱🇰 Sri LankaAbstained
🇱🇷 LiberiaIn favor
🇱🇸 LesothoAbstained
🇱🇹 LithuaniaIn favor
✔️
✔️
🇱🇺 LuxembourgIn favor
✔️
🇱🇻 LatviaIn favor
✔️
✔️
🇱🇾 LibyaIn favor
🇲🇦 Morocco--
🇲🇨 MonacoIn favor
🇲🇩 MoldovaIn favor
✔️
🇲🇪 MontenegroIn favor
✔️
🇲🇬 MadagascarAbstained
🇲🇭 Marshall IslandsIn favor
🇲🇰 North MacedoniaIn favor
✔️
🇲🇱 MaliAgainst
🇲🇲 MyanmarIn favor
🇲🇳 MongoliaAbstained
🇲🇷 Mauritania--
🇲🇹 MaltaIn favor
🇲🇺 MauritiusIn favor
🇲🇻 MaldivesAbstained
🇲🇼 MalawiIn favor
🇲🇽 MexicoAbstained
🇲🇾 MalaysiaAbstained
🇲🇿 MozambiqueAbstained
🇳🇦 NamibiaAbstained
🇳🇪 NigerAbstained
🇳🇬 NigeriaAbstained
🇳🇮 NicaraguaAgainst
🇳🇱 NetherlandsIn favor
✔️
🇳🇴 NorwayIn favor
✔️
🇳🇵 NepalAbstained
🇳🇷 NauruIn favor
🇳🇿 New ZealandIn favor
🇴🇲 OmanAbstained
🇵🇦 PanamaIn favor
🇵🇪 PeruIn favor
🇵🇬 Papua New GuineaIn favor
🇵🇭 PhilippinesIn favor
🇵🇰 PakistanAbstained
🇵🇱 PolandIn favor
✔️
🇵🇹 PortugalIn favor
✔️
🇵🇼 PalauIn favor
🇵🇾 ParaguayIn favor
🇶🇦 QatarAbstained
🇷🇴 RomaniaIn favor
✔️
🇷🇸 SerbiaIn favor
🇷🇺 RussiaAgainst
✔️
🇷🇼 Rwanda--
🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaAbstained
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands--
🇸🇨 SeychellesIn favor
🇸🇩 SudanAbstained
🇸🇪 SwedenIn favor
🇸🇬 SingaporeAbstained
🇸🇮 SloveniaIn favor
✔️
🇸🇰 SlovakiaIn favor
✔️
🇸🇱 Sierra LeoneIn favor
🇸🇲 San MarinoIn favor
🇸🇳 SenegalAbstained
🇸🇴 Somalia--
🇸🇷 SurinameAbstained
🇸🇸 South SudanAbstained
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe--
🇸🇻 El SalvadorAbstained
🇸🇾 SyriaAgainst
🇸🇿 EswatiniAbstained
🇹🇩 ChadIn favor
🇹🇬 TogoAbstained
🇹🇭 ThailandAbstained
🇹🇯 TajikistanAgainst
✔️
🇹🇱 Timor LesteIn favor
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan--
✔️
🇹🇳 TunisiaAbstained
🇹🇴 TongaIn favor
🇹🇷 TurkeyIn favor
✔️
🇹🇹 Trinidad and TobagoAbstained
🇹🇻 TuvaluIn favor
🇹🇿 TanzaniaAbstained
🇺🇦 UkraineIn favor
✔️
🇺🇬 UgandaAbstained
🇦🇪 United Arab EmiratesAbstained
🇬🇧 United KingdomIn favor
✔️
🇺🇸 United StatesIn favor
✔️
🇺🇾 UruguayIn favor
🇺🇿 UzbekistanAgainst
✔️
🇻🇨 St Vincent and the GrenadinesAbstained
🇻🇪 Venezuela--
🇻🇳 VietnamAgainst
🇻🇺 VanuatuAbstained
🇼🇸 SamoaIn favor
🇾🇪 YemenAbstained
🇿🇦 South AfricaAbstained
🇿🇲 Zambia--
🇿🇼 ZimbabweAgainst
🏴󠁢󠁡󠁢󠁩󠁨󠁿 Bosnia and HerzegovinaIn favor

Not surprisingly, all NATO countries voted in favor of suspending Russia from the Council. This includes Turkey, which has taken a more neutral stance than other allies since the invasion began. Altogether, 93 countries voted for the resolution.

On the other side, 24 countries voted against the resolution. China is perhaps the most significant “no” vote, citing a lack of openness and transparency in the process. Of course, Russia itself voted against the resolution.

A number of countries abstained from voting, most notably, India. Leading up to the vote, Moscow indicated that even an abstention would be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties.

This suspension adds to the list of actions taken against Russia—including heavy sanctions—as the country becomes more isolated from the international community—particularly Western nations.

What Does the UN Human Rights Council Do?

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a UN body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.

The Council investigates breaches of human rights in UN member states and member countries address big picture human rights issues.

How Does the UN Human Rights Council Work?

The Council consists of 47 members, elected yearly by the General Assembly for staggered three-year terms.

Using the UN regional grouping system, members are selected to represent a diverse and fair mix of countries from around the world. Until its suspension, Russia was one of the two countries representing Eastern Europe, along with Ukraine.

Members are eligible for re-election for one additional term, after which they relinquish their seat.

Where does this data come from?

Source: The United Nations

Correction: An earlier version of this graphic had a Colombian flag in the “abstain” section. It has been replaced with the correct flag, Cambodia. Austria was also erroneously grouped with NATO countries.

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