Deignan Award launch to award ethical corporate governance

April 25, 2022 08:58
Photo: Facebook/British Chamber of Commerce in Macao

Wofoo Social Enterprises, Hong Kong, and the Macau Ricci Institute at the University of St. Joseph, Macau, with the Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong as their Patron, launched the Deignan Award for Responsible Entrepreneurship (DARE), to award small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) for ethical business practices and encourage them to follow justice, solidarity and social responsibility.

The award is named for Father Alfred Deignan, an Irish Jesuit priest who served in Hong Kong from 1953 until his death in 2018.

Rev Bishop Stephen Chow, also a Jesuit, supports DARE in the function as Patron. At a ceremony at St Joseph’s University in Macao attended by about 80 business leaders, academics, lawyers and architects from Macao and Hong Kong, Bishop Stephen Chow gave the key note address:

“Profit is only part of business and not the main part. A business group is composed of people. How do we help our colleagues and help them better achieve their potential? How do we complement each other? We should create a working environment that is better, more sustainable and more productive.” He was speaking via video.

DARE said that the critical success factors for a leading business in the 21st century were to understand not just how much profit a company made for itself but rather how much wealth and happiness it created for all stakeholders.

“Conduct your business in a manner that has a positive influence on creating a better environment. Have a shared vision for creating an inclusive society and developing capable leadership for coming generations of talents. Have the confidence to share best practice based on the wisdom of those who have inspired you. Prioritise responsible corporate governance and honest stakeholder engagement for sustainable growth and development,” it said.

The executive committee for DARE said that it would carefully select successful and qualified SMEs from Hong Kong and Macao that showed a credible track record of specific achievements in the field of sustainability and the implementation of ethical practices, based on the most update research on corporate social responsibility, environmental, social and governance criteria and business ethics. Deadline for applications is August 30 this year.

A panel of judges will shortlist three finalists of SMEs from Hong Kong and Macao and choose the winner. It will be announced at the Deignan Award ceremony on March 25, 2023. They plan to give an award to an SME in the Greater Bay Area later.

Born in 1927, Deignan arrived in Hong Kong in 1953 and lived here until his death in December 2018, at the age of 91. He dedicated his life to education, as principal of the Wah Yan Colleges in Hong Kong and Kowloon.

In 1997, he set up the Hong Kong International Institution of Education Leadership with his Chinese friends. “We have a dream of better behaviour in our society,” he said. There is a great need to build up the moral fibre of society, and we feel that this can be done through moral or values education.”

Dr Stephan Rothlin is Director of the Macau Ricci Institute and chief executive of Rothin International Management, with offices in Hong Kong and Beijing. He has been involved in the research and promotion of business ethics in China, Hong Kong and Macao for more than 20 years.

“I had the chance to work with Father Deignan over many years on different projects of business ethics. The example of this deeply compassionate educator with a passion of sharing key values of integrity, compassion and honesty left a decisive mark in various circles of society. In these times of crisis, the Deignan Award would be a very inspiring way to demonstrate the positive impact of sound values which could open a light and make a difference in a very demanding and competitive market place,” he said.

“Alfred Deignan shared with me his disappointment that often enterprises would pay mere lip service to compliance, business ethics and corporate social responsibility. There should be plenty of empirical evidence that a firm commitment to due diligence and sound business practices will more and more became a critical factor for success and would for sure minimize the host of risks linked to practices of corruption and disregard of law and ethics,” he said.

On its website, DARE said the award aimed to provide significant encouragement to key decision makers, by recognising top business leaders who exhibit exemplary behaviour in business practices that positively contribute to the common good of the society.

“In recent years, the attention of both the business world and business schools has focused increasingly on ethics, corporate accountability and responsibility, and the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance factors). Courses on ethics and ESG are proliferating rapidly, driven in part by the demands of MBA students, and partly by the various challenges and crises facing the world today. Companies are beginning to genuinely encourage these initiatives, and it has become imperative for business schools to take significant steps to add courses and co-curricular work on ethics and corporate social responsibility.

“The Deignan Award recognises Alfred Deignan’s mission and commitment to education and the promotion of values and ethical business practices, and strives to encourage and reward today’s business leaders for their efforts to operate according to principals of sustainability and an orientation towards the common good,” it said.

It said that, throughout his life, Deignan made it his mission to educate generations of students in Hong Kong with a particular focus on basic human values of integrity, honesty, truthfulness, forgiveness, and human dignity. “He was a softly spoken Irish gentleman who always had a brilliant smile and lyrical tone. He was well loved and respected and is remembered by his friends and colleagues as being full of wisdom, kindness and generosity.”

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A Hong Kong-based writer, teacher and speaker.