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

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

The award recognises organisations that continue to raise the bar on ethical leadership and corporate behavior, with the evaluation process covering everything from codes of ethics, litigation and business practices to the firm's impact on local communities, along with feedback from customers and employees.

Scores are generated in five key categories: ethics and compliance programme (25%), reputation, leadership and innovation (20%), governance (10%), corporate citizenship and responsibility (25%) and culture of ethics (20%).

"We have certainly been experiencing increased interest from clients based on their desire to be ethically compliant, which makes me very proud of what we have achieved as a business," explains Connor's chairman and CEO, William E (Chip) Connor.

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.

Connor also prides itself on high volume, long-term relationships with customers such as US retailer Dillards, with which it has been working for 42 years, and UK retailer Marks & Spencer (also recognised by Ethisphere), which has been a client for 17 years.

Other apparel firms included on the 2014 list of the world's most ethical companies are Gap Inc, Levi Strauss & Co and Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M).