Hong Kong based sourcing specialist William E Connor & Associates has been named as one of world's most ethical companies for the fourth year in a row.

The accolade from US business ethics think-tank the Ethisphere Institute makes Connor one of only a few Asia based companies to receive the award - and the only sourcing firm in the world to be included on the list.

Apparel firms recognised as the world's most ethical companies in 2015 are Gap Inc, Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M), Levi Strauss, and UK based retailer Marks & Spencer – which has itself been a Connor client for 18 years.

An extensive and rigorous review is carried out prior to inclusion on 'The World's Most Ethical Companies' list – which Ethisphere says "recognises companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business 'ethically' and translate those words into action.

"Honorees not only promote ethical business standards and practices internally, they exceed legal compliance minimums and shape future industry standards by introducing best practices today."

Connor's success is based on a business model that enables brands, retailers and importers to source apparel and homewares from a global supply base of over 6,000 audited factories.

However, the company does not hold an equity interest in any factory, nor receive any financial benefit from factories. Instead, Connor puts together a portfolio of options providing details of different factories, prices, technical evaluations, spec packs, quality assurance and a vendor scorecard so that customers can make their own decisions. The sourcing firm's earnings are generated only from client commissions, based on the value of products delivered.

"Sixty-six years ago, our founder articulated a clear and uncomplicated code of conduct: we will represent only one interest, that of our principal, and will do so transparently, ethically, and to the very best of our ability. This code remains the cornerstone of our culture today," said chairman and CEO William E (Chip) Connor,

"Ethisphere has shed much needed light on the sometimes opaque world of global trade, and to be recognised for our contribution to common ethical goals is a true honor."