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.
|Entity||Cost of Operations, USD billions||Revenues, USD billions||Operating Margin, %|
|U.S. Military Spending||$778||N/A||N/A|
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.
Can You Calculate Your Daily Carbon Footprint?
Discover how the average person’s carbon footprint impacts the environment and learn how carbon credits can offset your carbon footprint.
Your Everyday Carbon Footprint
While many large businesses and countries have committed to net-zero goals, it is essential to acknowledge that your everyday activities also contribute to global emissions.
In this graphic, sponsored by Carbon Streaming Corporation, we will explore how the choices we make and the products we use have a profound impact on our carbon footprint.
Carbon Emissions by Activity
Here are some of the daily activities and products of the average person and their carbon footprint, according to Clever Carbon.
|Household Activities & Products||CO2 Emissions (g)|
|💡 Standard Light Bulb (100 watts, four hours)||172 g|
|📱 Mobile Phone Use (195 minutes per day)*||189 g|
|👕 Washing Machine (0.63 kWh)||275 g|
|🔥 Electric Oven (1.56 kWh)||675 g|
|♨️ Tumble Dryer (2.5 kWh)||1,000 g|
|🧻 Toilet Roll (2 ply)||1,300 g|
|🚿 Hot Shower (10 mins)||2,000 g|
|🚙 Daily Commute (one hour, by car)||3,360 g|
|🍽️ Average Daily Food Consumption (three meals of 600 calories)||4,500 g|
|*Phone use based on yearly use of 69kg per the source, Reboxed|
Your choice of transportation plays a crucial role in determining your carbon footprint. For instance, a 15 km daily commute to work on public transport generates an average of 1,464 g of CO₂ emissions. Compared to 3,360 g—twice the volume for a journey the same length by car.
By opting for more sustainable modes of transport, such as cycling, walking, or public transportation, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
Addressing Your Carbon Footprint
One way to compensate for your emissions is by purchasing high-quality carbon credits.
Carbon credits are used to help fund projects that avoid, reduce or remove CO₂ emissions. This includes nature-based solutions such as reforestation and improved forest management, or technology-based solutions such as the production of biochar and carbon capture and storage (CCS).
While carbon credits offer a potential solution for individuals to help reduce global emissions, public awareness remains a significant challenge. A BCG-Patch survey revealed that only 34% of U.S. consumers are familiar with carbon credits, and only 3% have purchased them in the past.
About Carbon Streaming
By financing the creation or expansion of carbon projects, Carbon Streaming Corporation secures the rights to future carbon credits generated by these sustainable projects. You can then purchase these carbon credits to help fund climate solutions around the world and compensate for your own emissions.
Ready to get involved?
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