An examination of professional practices for global sustainable development in banks of Hong Kong

Wai Yuk Angel HO

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


Hong Kong is an internationally renowned financial center. However, since the global financial crisis in 2008, the current COVID-19 pandemic, its competitive position has been challenged locally, regionally and internationally. Therefore, Hong Kong faces an urgent need to find ways to sustain its leading competitive advantage as an international financial center.

The financial market of Hong Kong is well-known for its stringent rules and regulations, as set by organizations, such as The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), The Hong Kong Association of Banks (HKAB), etc. This research focuses on the differences and similarities of professional practices among banking practitioners in their daily decision-making process.

This study examines the current professional practices (regulatory and ethical) and whether sustainability is an integral part of their decision making. The research conceptual framework is derived mainly from three influential theories, namely Archie Carroll’s “CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Pyramid” (1991), Edward Freeman’s Stakeholder model (1984) designed for business strategy by adopting CSR context through engagement and communication with others; and John Elkington’s triple bottom line (1994) approach of balancing the economic, social and environmental development. In addition, this study uses the internationally adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a benchmark for assessing and evaluating the current sustainability activities deployed by the chosen three banks.

This study was conducted on a case study basis. Three chosen renowned international banks which are recognized for their excellence in integrating sustainability-related activities for serving the community. Among the three, two focus on offering retail/commercial services, while the other mainly offers investment products. Two banking practitioners were chosen from each bank based on their level of serving roles, i.e., frontline-level, middle-level or seniorlevel, for the research. The participants were each given a background questionnaire sheet which they had to submit prior to attending semi structured interviews. During the one-on-one in-depth open-ended interview meetings, banking practitioners were asked to respond to three research questions, and a scenario workplace environment question. They are designed to examine their daily decision-making process within their assigned daily job roles.

The collected data was the collection of 19 practitioners who represented three authorized banks operated in Hong Kong. Data were analyzed by employing the conceptual tools of NVivo 12 Pro software. The research process includes (1) data collection of key words, e.g., Sustainability, Sustainable Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Ethics, Professional Practices, Ethical Decision Making, Stakeholder and Shareholders from multiple channels of interviews, observations, and documentations; (2) collaborative approach in exploring the current professional practices undertaken by banking practitioners; and (3) inductive-deductive logical reasoning for analyzing data collected from interviewees for within and cross cases analysis.

In this empirical study, it emerged that banking practitioners make decisions on the basis of their own or supervisors’ experiences or norms, rather than the existing and ever-increasing rules and regulations. Based on the collected data, it showed that there is an existing miscommunication among different levels of practitioners in their decision-making process. The gaps found among different levels of banking practitioners are from awareness to understanding, and from understanding to application of the respective bank’s own sustainability policies and strategies in their daily operational procedures.

Finally, there is a discussion on the different roles played by different banking professionals, governments and regulatory bodies. The importance of these roles undertaken by decision makers at different levels within the key services offered in retail/commercial or investment banks. The decisions made within these roles whether have direct economic, social, and environmental consequences.

The conclusion and recommendation section emphasizes the importance of communication in promoting sustainable development through training and public education, especially in relation to the personal integrity of each individual within the banking sector for achieving accountability and transparency. This is also in line with the SDG Leadership framework advocated by the United Nations - the PAL (Priority, Act and Learn) approach. This is regarded as the basis for banking practitioners’ decisions in delivering holistic sustainable development of banks through continual assessment and evaluation.

The key contribution of this study is, it sheds the light on the important role played by each individual practitioner through the genuine first core of internal staff “stakeholder engagement”. It is critical that a clear standard of the holistic sustainable development direction/mission is adopted by Senior management with a well-communicated strategy which involves training and education from awareness to understanding, then further to apply within respective roles in banks. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • YU, Wai Mui, Christina 姚偉梅, Supervisor
  • TANG, Hei Hang, Hayes 鄧希恒, Supervisor
  • CHU, Man Ying, Amanda 朱文英, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Sustainability
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Stakeholder
  • Business ethics
  • Decision-making
  • Bank
  • Training and education
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2021.


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