Mick Jackson set up his WildHearts in Action office-supply business to benefit poverty-stricken children in the world's poorest regions. Its slogan is "even a bad day at the office saves lives", and clients include Gordonstoun School and Edinburgh Zoo.
Mr Jackson, once a wannabe rock star, moved into internet recruitment and sales before his brush with tragedy on K2, the world's second-highest mountain, six years ago. When his guide suffered a collapsed lung, Mr Jackson carried him on his back for three days until they were found by a Kashmiri child.
He was named the Top Scot after an open public vote as part of the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland awards, sponsored by The Scotsman.
He and the other winners were presented with their trophies in a gala ceremony at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.
The Doctor Who actor David Tennant won the screen award, beating a star-studded field including the Atonement star James McAvoy and film actress Tilda Swinton.
The director David McKenzie also missed out but had the satisfaction of seeing cartoon artist David Shrigley, who supplied the title for his film Hallam Foe, win the art award.
The rock musician Edwyn Collins, formerly of Orange Juice, capped an extraordinary comeback by winning the music award. The Edinburgh-born singer collapsed in 2005 with two cerebral haemorrhages but returned to the stage this autumn to promote his new album.
Four-time world bowls champion Alex Marshall MBE won the sport award, perhaps showing a larger loyal fanbase than rival nominee, tennis player Jamie Murray.
Christopher Brookmyre, whose hit novels have included Quite Ugly One Morning and One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, won the writing award, while the Salar Smokehouse, selling flaked smoked salmon from South Uist, won the food prize.
All the nominations were chosen by a judging panel, with the shortlists voted on by the public. And Mr Jackson's story clearly appealed to voters.
He pledged to dedicate the award to the little girl who appeared like an angel and found him and his guide after he had collapsed with exhaustion and nearly given up hope.
He said of his young rescuer: "I don't know anything about her. She lives in the wilderness of Kashmir and I credit her with saving my life."
After working at Recruitment Scotland, Mr Jackson launched Wild Day, an online outdoor equipment store that is now a 10 million company, then created WildHearts in Action.
He said: "WildHearts in Action customers believe that businesses can and should be a force for good in the world and they care enough to do something about it."
Mr Jackson, 38, lives in Glasgow and Nairn. His operation has already helped famine victims in East Africa and is set to help launch a new venture to help fund new businesses in the developing world.
Mike Gilson, the Editor of The Scotsman, said: "The choice of Mick Jackson for Top Scot matches Scots values of mixing a canny eye for business with a concerned eye for charity.
"It's the perfect example of a Scot making a huge success of himself but also putting something back. He didn't have to do what he did, but he did it."
He added: "The Scotsman is proud to be co-sponsoring these awards."
The painter Jolomo, John Lowrie Morrison, who was there to present the art award, said: "These awards do what they actually say. They show the spirit of Scotland - all the wonderful, brilliant people we've had."
Previous top Scots have included the broadcaster Kirsty Wark, the Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri and the Harry Potter author, JK Rowling.
• The awards ceremony will be broadcast on STV tonight.
The winners in the other categories:
FOOD: SALAR SMOKEHOUSE
The thriving family-run business in South Uist has won many accolades. Salar's flaky smoked salmon was served at the opening of the Scottish Parliament, and several times for Her Majesty the Queen.
ART: DAVID SHRIGLEY
Deceptively child-like and darkly humorous, David Shrigley's drawings have made him one of Scotland's most sought-after artists. Based in Glasgow, he recently designed the credits for the Scottish film Hallam Foe, with his cartoons also featured on its poster.
ENVIRONMENT: PAUL RAMSAY
The European beaver was hunted to extinction in Scotland 400 years ago. Paul Ramsay has championed efforts to bring back the animal.
He keeps beavers in two large enclosures on his Banff estate and for 40 years has been a committed and outspoken environmentalist.
SCREEN: DAVID TENNANT
When David Tennant returned to the Scottish stage for Look Back in Anger two years ago, reviewers sang his praises. He was soon cast as the tenth incarnation of the Time Lord in the revived Dr Who, with fans rapidly voting him the best ever.
WRITING: CHRISTOPHER BROOKMYRE
"Death is not the end — it's the ultimate undercover assignment." So says Jack Parlabane, the journalist created by Christopher Brookmyre. Mr Brookmyre, who lives near Glasgow with his family, has won several major literary awards with his comic crime fiction.
SPORT: ALEX MARSHALL, MBE
At the age of only ten, Alex Marshall won the City of Edinburgh Schoolboys bowling title. He is one of the most successful Scottish bowlers of all time, recently named the World Indoor Bowls Singles Champion for a record-breaking fourth time.
MUSIC: EDWYN COLLINS
Edinburgh-born singer Edwyn Collins collapsed at his London home in 2005 in the midst of finishing his 6th solo album.
Fighting his way back from the effects of the severe stroke, Collins completed the album Home Again.