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A record number of winners in the HKICPA’s Awards, reflects stronger ESG performances from Mainland enterprises, while issues remain around board diversity and “over-boarding”

29 November 2023

(HONG KONG, 29 November 2023) The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) today announced the winners of the 24th Best Corporate Governance and ESG Awards (“Awards”).


This year, the Most Sustainable Companies/Organizations (MSCO) Awards remained the top accolades in the competition, recognizing listed companies and public sector organizations (“PSOs”) that demonstrated excellence in both corporate governance (“CG”) and environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) practices and reporting, while integrating these two elements into their values, strategies and operations. Separate CG and ESG Awards were also available for companies and PSOs that achieved a high standard of performance in either CG or ESG.


The record number of 34 awardees this year (see the Appendix below) includes 12 MSCO Awards’ winners. HKICPA congratulates CLP Holdings Limited, a platinum award winner in the Hang Seng Index category, which continued to set the benchmark for CG and ESG performance among listed companies in Hong Kong. Other platinum-award-winning listed companies were Prudential plc, in the large market capitalization category and The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, in the medium market capitalization category. In the public sector category, only the Airport Authority Hong Kong won an MSCO Award.


In the dedicated ESG Awards section, five Mainland companies were among the winners, including three first-time awardees – Alibaba Group Holding Limited, Geely Automobile Holdings Limited and JD Logistics, Inc. Other new ESG listed company awardees were Sands China Limited and Cathay Pacific Airways Limited. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority was also a new winner for its ESG in the public sector category.   


In the separate CG Awards section of the competition there were seven awardees, all previous winners.


The Awards Presentation Ceremony was held in JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong today. The Institute was pleased to welcome Ms. Salina Yan, Permanent Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury (Financial Services) as the Guest of Honour. During her speech at the ceremony, addressing the winners and other guests, she said, “you have demonstrated clearly that doing good to the society and the environment also means doing good to your businesses. From a big picture point of view, concerted efforts by individual organizations to attain a high level of governance …can also help foster the credibility and resilience of our financial markets to weather changes and challenges”. Ms. Yan continued, “Thanks to the hard work of our professionals and professional bodies like the HKICPA, regulators and stakeholders, we are seeing an increasingly robust and vibrant ESG ecosystem in Hong Kong.”


Ms. Loretta Fong CPA, HKICPA President and chair of the judging panel of the Awards, said, “We are pleased to see more very strong performances this year, and number of new winners emerging, particularly in the separate ESG section of the Awards. It was good to observe clear improvements in the ESG reporting of Mainland enterprises and more companies are establishing better connections between their ESG vision, strategies, and action plans, which in turn is a demonstration of their commitment to achieving their sustainability goals, such as carbon neutrality, within specific timeframes.  We found that this information was likely to be presented on a clear and eye-catching way through use of tables or diagrams, and it effectively laid the foundation for more detailed discussions in the subsequent sections of the companies’ ESG reports”.


The HKICPA notes that an increasing number of companies and PSOs have been enhancing their ESG practices and disclosures, driven by the Hong Kong SAR Government's emphasis on achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and the Mainland Government’s 2060 target, the accompanying regulatory push for enhanced ESG disclosures, and mounting pressure on institutional investors to prioritize sustainable investments.


While ESG practices and reporting are striding ahead, the HKICPA says that Hong Kong’s progress and development in CG is more disappointing. “Standards of CG, overall, appear to have plateaued” say Ms. Fong. “While there are companies and public sector entities that are continuing to raise the standards of their CG, these tend to be familiar faces. While we applaud those companies that are strengthening their focus on addressing some of the key ESG issues facing society, at the same time, they must not lose sight of the need for high-quality CG. Good CG underpins everything that a business does, so it is important to have the right governance structures in place, as well as high standards of ESG, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the business. Good CG and good ESG are two sides of the same coin, which is why we stress them both through the MSCO Awards”, Ms. Fong explains.               


Key areas for further Improvement


Corporate Governance


·       Long-serving INEDs and board diversity


It was observed some boards have a significant proportion of long-serving independent directors (“INEDs”) with a higher average age; their terms tend to be renewed, without much explanation being provided in the relevant companies’ annual reports. The companies concerned should justify decisions to reappoint in these circumstances, such as identifying any unique expertise or exposure that a long-serving INED has, which continues to benefit the company. Further, the number of female directors on boards in Hong Kong, overall, is still relatively low and quite static.


Mr. Patrick Rozario, Chairman of the Awards Review Panel, said, “We believe that introducing fresh INEDs onto a board, and expanding its diversity, offers opportunities for new perspectives to be considered, which can be a competitive advantage in a dynamic business environment, with markets that continue to develop and evolve often in new and unexpected directions. Also, gender diversity on boards can encourage better leadership, better CG and ultimately increase corporate performance, which benefits companies and their shareholders. With consideration of ESG factors, which may encompass diversity and inclusion, being an important element for many investors nowadays when making investment decisions, we believe that companies will need to give greater attention to diversity, including more balanced gender representation.”


·       Over-boarding directors


It was also noted that “over-boarding” is quite a common issue, which does not seem to be adequately addressed in companies’ annual reports. Directors sitting on a number of listed company boards as well as boards of larger PSOs, may not be able to devote sufficient time to each and every board, so as contribute to the effective functioning of the boards that they serve. The companies involved need to disclose the reasons for appointing “over-boarding” directors and provide evidence that they will be able to devote sufficient time to the work of the board.




·       Providing quantitative targets and statistics


The HKICPA noted that a number of targets remained only qualitative, especially regarding the "social" aspects (i.e., the "S" in "ESG"). This makes it challenging for stakeholders to gauge whether companies are making tangible progress in this area. Additionally, although companies provide annual statistics, they often fail to provide explanations for significant changes over the years, leaving stakeholders without a complete understanding of the situation.


·       Adopting ESG assurance


It was still not common to find assurance of data in sustainability/ ESG reports among the entities shortlisted in the Awards, which is consistent with the findings of our recent study, “ESG Assurance in Hong Kong 2023: An evolving landscape. The study found a moderate increase in the number listed companies, overall, seeking external assurance of their ESG performance data and information, although there was a more significant increase among large companies. 


Ms. Loren Tang, Chairman of the Awards’ Organizing Committee, said, “Engaging an independent expert to perform assurance procedures can significantly enhance the credibility of sustainability reports. While there is a cost to obtaining assurance, and it potentially requires companies to devote more resources to strengthening their systems and internal controls for collecting, analysing and managing data, to ensure its relevance and accuracy, obtaining independent assurance from a reputable service provider certainly enhances stakeholders’ trust and confidence. It can also help to dispel any concerns about possible "greenwashing". Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are a good choice when engaging ESG assurers, due to their expertise in areas such as financial reporting, auditing, internal control and risk management, their adherence to a body of professional and ethical standards, as well as the rigorous regulatory oversight of their compliance with these standards.”


This year, HKICPA again invited a limited amount of financial sponsorship for the Awards, and was very pleased to receive considerable interest from prominent CPA and other professional consultancy firms (see Note 1) to being associated with these prestigious Awards. The Institute would like to express its appreciation for their support and that of the Awards’ media sponsors (see Note 2).


Note 1: list of sponsors (in alphabetical order)

1.    Ace Sustainability & Risk Advisors Ltd.

2.    AVISTA Group

3.    BDO

4.    CityLinkers Group

5.    Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

6.    Ernst & Young

7.    Grant Thornton Hong Kong Ltd.

8.    HLB Hodgson Impey Cheng Ltd.

9.    KPMG

10.  Mazars

11.  Moore CPA Ltd.

12.  PwC

13.  Riskory Consultancy Limited

14.  RSM Hong Kong


Note 2: list of media sponsors (in alphabetical order)

1. ET Net

2. Hong Kong Economic Times

3. The Standard



The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants today announced the winners of the 24th Best Corporate Governance and ESG Awards, which aim to encourage companies to focus on high standards of both corporate governance (“CG”) and environmental, social and governance (“ESG”).



Ms. Salina YAN, Permanent Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury (Financial Services) is the Guest of Honours of the Awards Presentation Ceremony while she also delivered a welcoming address. 



During her welcoming speech in the Ceremony, Ms. Loretta Fong CPA, HKICPA President and chair of the judging panel of the Awards said it is pleased to see more very strong performances this year, and number of new winners emerging.





內地企業ESG表現進步 董事會多元化及「過度入閣」問題待改善
















公會指出,隨著港府和內地政府分別訂立2050年與2060 年碳中和目標,以及監管機構持續推動ESG披露,加上機構投資者對可持續投資的重視不斷加大,越來越多公司和公營機構正進一步深化ESG實踐和披露。








·         長期任職的獨立非執行董事和董事會多元化






·         「過度入閣」問題







·         提供量化目標和統計數據


公會指出,許多目標只流於質化,特別是在「社會」範疇方面,讓持份者難以衡量公司的實際進展。 此外,儘管公司提供年度統計數據,但未有就不同時期的重大轉變提供解釋,導致持份者無法完全掌握現況。


·         採用 ESG 鑒證


在入圍機構中,可持續發展或ESG報告進行鑒證仍未普及,這與公會2023香港ESG鑒證最新情況 : 一個不斷演變的領域》研究報告結果一致。研究發現,雖然整體採用ESG資料外部鑒證的上市公司數目有所增加,但只有大型公司的升幅較為明顯。








1.   傑思可持續發展與風險諮詢有限公司

2.   艾華迪集團

3.   香港立信德豪會計師事務所

4.   連城集團

5.   德勤 · 關黃陳方會計師行

6.   安永會計師事務所

7.   致同(香港)會計師事務所有限公司

8.   HLB國衛會計師事務所有限公司

9.   畢馬威會計師事務所

10. 中審眾環(香港) 會計師事務所有限公司

11.  大華馬施雲會計師事務所有限公司

12.  羅兵咸永道

13.  Riskory Consultancy Limited

14.  羅申美會計師事務所



1. 經濟通

2. 香港經濟日報
3. 英文虎報