The 2021 DHL-SCMP Hong Kong Business Awards (HKBA) kicked off the nomination process to honour outstanding management, corporate and entrepreneurial achievements over the past 12 months, when the city was mired in recession amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The 2021 awards comprise seven categories : business-person of the year, executive, start-up, international award, enterprise, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) and China company. The eighth award is a discretionary honour that recognises outstanding lifetime achievements, and is reserved only for worthy candidates. The 32nd edition of one of Hong Kong’s longest running business awards comes on the heels of the city’s worst economic recession on record, weighed down by a worldwide coronavirus pandemic that has crimped consumption and business travels, leaving in its wake record unemployment and business closures. “Thankfully, businesses have now started to recover. With lower numbers of COVID-19 cases, the city is starting to once again become vibrant in all aspects, boosted by the emergence of e-commerce, which is here to stay even after the pandemic,” said DHL Express Hong Kong and Macau’s Managing Director Ng Chee Choong. “In view of this development and in line with HKBA’s 32-year mission and vision, this year’s programme includes the new pandemic response rating to recognise Hong Kong businesses’ and individuals’ strong entrepreneurial effort to rise above the challenges we have all experienced.” Last year’s winners were led by the Luen Thai Group’s founder Tan Siu-lin, one of Hong Kong’s best-known philanthropists, in a line-up that acknowledged contributions to social responsibility , charity and corporate governance amid hard times in the city. Tan, 89, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the top of the honours list last year, while New World Development’s chief executive Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, received the Business Person of the Year award. The awards came in a year of unprecedented contraction in Hong Kong’s economy, as the coronavirus pandemic followed last year’s anti-government protests and almost two years of the US-China trade war . Amid slumping corporate earnings and record unemployment in a recession, the awards’ panel of judges – including winners of the previous year – shifted the weight of their adjudication to emphasise corporate social responsibility, from the usual financial indicators, in recognition of businesses that have gone the extra mile to care for their staff or give back to society amid hard times. The HKBA features a unique peer adjudication process where the immediate past winners sit as judges for the current year’s awards. The adjudication panel of the 2021 awards comprises 14 judges: nine representing the awards’ organisers DHL and South China Morning Post , as well as their honorary advisers and supporting organisations HSBC, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC), the Junior Chamber International (JCI) of Hong Kong, the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC), and the University of Hong Kong. Five judges will join the 2021 panel, representing last year’s award winners: New World Development , Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Limited, HKBN, Central Smile, and Airwallex . “This year, we are presented with an opportunity to elevate Hong Kong’s economic competitiveness by enshrining gender diversity at the workplace,” said Gary Liu, the Post ’s chief executive officer. “The HK Business Awards can make a difference because workplace gender diversity as a business strategy just makes business sense.” The appeal comes as the Hong Kong Clearing and Exchanges Limited (HKEX), the operator of the world’s third-largest capital market, made it mandatory for every single one of the city’s publicly listed companies to appoint at least one woman director by 2025 in its bid to end all-male boards. “McKinsey says top-quartile gender-diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to see higher financial returns than their national industry medians, [while other] studies have shown there is a direct correlation between the health of a company’s bottom line and the number of women in its executive team,” Liu said. Nominations for the 2021 awards can be submitted by mail or online until Friday, September 24. The judges will adjudicate over the nominations three weeks later, and the awards ceremony for the 2021 honours is scheduled for Thursday, December 2.