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HKICPA finds MSCO award winners continuing to raise their standards against the minimum requirements while calling for more focus on board diversity in Hong Kong

06 December 2022

(HONG KONG, 5 December 2022) Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (“the Institute”) today announced the winners of the 22nd Best Corporate Governance and ESG Awards (“Awards”). In response to the rising demands globally for companies to demonstrate high-quality corporate governance (“CG”) and environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) practices and reporting, the Awards recognize the companies and organizations that have achieved outstanding performances in both of these two aspects, in the Most Sustainable Companies/ Organizations (“MSCO”) Awards, or in either one of these areas, in the awards for CG and ESG.

MSCO Awards

Building on the success of the inaugural MSCO Awards in 2021, the Institute continues to encourage listed companies and public sector organizations to give equal attention to their CG and ESG practices and reporting, and, ultimately, to integrate and these two elements into their business values, strategies and operations.

Ms. Loretta Fong CPA, HKICPA President and chair of the judging panel of the Best Corporate Governance and ESG Awards 2022, said, “We are pleased to see that all the MSCO awardees continued to uphold high CG and ESG standards, with, for example, their clear sustainability governance structures and integrated risk management processes. As the minimum standards are progressively raised for all companies, the MSCO candidates are often early adopters and may already be applying practices that exceed any new requirements.”      


Ms. Loren Tang, Chairman of the Awards’ Organizing Committee added that, “The MSCO Awards are the highest level of recognition and the winners are generally characterized by having the right tone at the top and maintaining a culture that reinforces the board’s vision and core values, ensuring these are conveyed to a like-minded senior management to help drive the company’s long- term strategy.


The Institute congratulates all the 10 winners of the MSCO Awards, including CLP Holdings Limited, winner of a platinum award in the Hang Seng Index category, whose CG and ESG practices continue to stand out. The Link REIT won a gold award also in the same category. MSCO awardees in other categories were Prudential plc, The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited, Pacific Basin Shipping Limited, VTech Holdings Limited and Lenovo Group Limited. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited, the MTR Corporation Limited, and Standard Chartered PLC were given special mentions. Together with other awards given out in separate sections for CG and ESG, the judges recognized a total of 27 companies and public sector organizations in the 2022 Awards.

The Institute was pleased to note that a record number of candidates made it through to the review and final judging stages in the separate awards for ESG, against the background of increasing efforts by the government towards delivering on its commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. More companies were able to establish quantitative key performance indicators in relation to, e.g., carbon emissions, and water and energy usage and intensity, etc., giving investors greater assurance about companies’ commitment to sustainable development.

Areas for Further Improvement

However, as regards CG performance, the standard for the mass of listed companies in Hong Kong is still below where it should be, as reflected in the limited number of awardees in the separate awards for CG this year.

There seems to be slow progress in areas such as board refreshment, even among some companies that are better performers generally. A number of boards have a substantial proportion of long-serving non-executive directors (“NEDs”) and independent directors (“INEDs”), and the number of female directors overall is quite static in Hong Kong and low by the standard of many developed economies.

Changes have recently been made to the Corporate Governance Code under the Listing Rules to require companies to explain in communications to shareholders why a particular INED is still believed to be independent after serving over 9 years on the board. “We would recommend that such information also be included in annual reports, to provide users with a better understanding of companies’ governance and culture. Information could include reference to any unique contribution to the board that a particular long-serving INED continues to make, and why this may present challenges when trying to identify an effective replacement,” said Mr. Patrick Rozario, Chairman of the Awards Review Panel. “In addition, companies that are really committed to improving their transparency could also consider disclosing the board tenure of all directors, in their annual reports”, he added.

When it comes to board diversity, the Institute points out that, while it has become the norm for companies to set out board diversity policies, as required by the Listing Rules, not many companies set quantitative targets and timelines for achieving gender diversity, or, indeed, any measures adopted to identify potential successors to the board to achieve greater diversity. In future, the Institute looks to see the disclosure of more specific roadmaps towards increasing board diversity.

Board Diversity Research

Given the importance of encouraging different views and perspectives to improve the effectiveness of board oversight of the business, the Institute recently conducted a brief research on the status of board diversity of listed companies, with financial years ending 31 December 2021. In all, the study covered 1,844 companies, looking at board size and diversity, in term of gender, age and professional accounting qualifications, as well as the prevalence of long-serving directors.  

The study found that female board members accounted for only about 14.3% of all directors, which is well below the international benchmark of 30%, as advocated by the 30% Club, one of the world’s largest and most influential organizations advocating for more women on boards. In fact, over 30% of the companies in the study had no women at all on their boards.

“With single gender boards being required to appoint a director of a different gender no later than 31 December 2024, and no new listings of companies with single gender boards after July 2022, the Institute expects the percentage of the female board members to rise in the coming few years. Nevertheless, it is likely to stay below 20%, given the slow pace of change generally in appointing women on boards in Hong Kong,said Mr. Rozario.

Internationally, some studies have found that gender diverse boards are less likely to engage in excessive risk taking and are better able to balance the interests of all its stakeholders (i.e. customers, suppliers, employers). The advantage of women being included in the board discussions and decisions is the development of greater sensitivity to other stakeholders in addition to the equity investors. Similar things could also be said about age diversity, particularly in sectors, such as information technology and social media-related sectors, where many consumers tend to be younger and digital natives”, said Ms. Tang.

Turning to the key area of professional financial expertise on boards, when the Institute’s study looked more closely at the 1,844 companies, the findings were that only around 20% of boards had an executive director (“ED”), i.e., a full-time member of staff, who was a qualified accountant (“QA”) (defined in the study as being a member of one of the International Federation of Accountants’ member organizations, such as the HKICPA). This number deceased to about 11% for EDs who were also HKICPA members, bearing in mind that Institute members are the only professionals regulated by the Accounting and Financial Reporting Council in Hong Kong.

“There was previously a requirement under the Listing Rules, for both the Main Board and the Growth Enterprise Market, to have a QA as a member of the senior management and preferably on the board. However, that was removed in 2009. At the time, there was concern about this decision due to its potentially negative impact on overall CG.

We are now finding that, despite the increasing complexity of financial and sustainability reporting, around 80% of listed companies do not have a full-time accountant sitting on the board. Although most boards have a QA, that person is likely to be an INED, or NED. Given their part-time nature and the range of responsibilities that INEDs, in particular, need to take up, and their generally low level of remuneration, there could potentially be an expectation gap as to their level of contribution to the preparation of the financial statements and sustainability reports. With ongoing developments in international sustainability standards and the need for businesses to, e.g., price in sustainability-related risks and opportunities, among other things, the situation is likely to become increasingly high risk,” Ms. Fong explained. “The company need senior in-house expertise to do the job. Therefore, the HKICPA would urge the government and regulators to consider introducing a requirement for a QA under the Listing Rules, similar to the previous requirement”, she added.

This year, HKICPA invited a limited amount of financial sponsorship for the Awards, and was pleased to see the very positive reaction from leading CPA firms and other professional consultancy firms (see Note 1) to being associated with this prestigious awards competition. The Institute would like to express its appreciation for their support and that of the Awards’ media sponsors (see Note 2). For more details of the Awards, please visit:

Note 1: list of sponsors (in alphabetical order)

1.    Ace Sustainability & Risk Advisors Ltd.

2.    AVISTA Group

3.    BDO

4.    Charles Lo & Co.

5.    CityLinkers Group

6.    Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

7.    Ernst & Young

8.    Grant Thornton Hong Kong Ltd.

9.    HLB Hodgson Impey Cheng Ltd.

10.  KPMG

11.  Mazars

12.  Moore Stephens CPA Ltd.

13.  PricewaterhouseCoopers

14.  Riskory Consultancy Limited

15.  RSM Hong Kong

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

1.    ET Net

2.    Hong Kong Economic Times

3.    The Standard


List of Awardees

Judges' Report





















































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.    勞啟明會計師行

5.    連城集團

6.    德勤 · 關黃陳方會計師行

7.    安永會計師事務所

8.    致同(香港)會計師事務所有限公司

9.    HLB國衛會計師事務所有限公司

10.  畢馬威會計師事務所

11.  中審眾環(香港)

12.  大華馬施雲會計師事務所有限公司

13.  羅兵咸永道會計師事務所

14.  Riskory Consultancy Limited

15. 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