When comparing business practices, one factor that does not immediately come to mind is languages spoken and how they affect the outcome.

But economist Hao Liang of Tilburg University sought out to explore what factors make certain businesses focus on sustainable practices more than others, and language turns out to be a determining characteristic.

By comparing data from economic laws, political practices, and individual profit margins of several companies in different regions, Liang aimed to answer the question "Globally, what are the basic factors that encourage companies to fully or partially exchange the pursuit of profit maximization for the pursuit of sustainable business practices?"

The separation of present and future in the sentence structure has a huge effect on whether a company's goals are aligned with sustainable business practices. Languages such as English and French are called strong FTR languages, or future-time-reference. When the past and future are so far away, it is harder to imagine the future, and therefore not as much attention is paid to it.

German and Finnish for example, use similar words to describe the present and future, making it more unified. These companies found to have stronger interests in preserving sustainable practices.

Cover image: Expert Enough