GlaxoSmithKline takes home the honor as the top business on Fortune’s annual “Change the World” list. Two other tech/biotech companies with a big North Carolina presence also are recognized: Novozymes (“the world’s indispensable laboratory”) and IBM.

“Each year at this time, we set out to identify 50 companies across the globe that are tackling major societal problems—reducing damage to the environment, strengthening communities, serving the underserved, and significantly improving lives as a function of their business model—and whose good works contribute to their bottom lines,” Fortune explains about the list.

So why is GSK No. 1?

“[A]t the lithesome age of 300, the company is in the midst of yet another reinvention, growing a pharmaceutical business whose aim is to serve not just patients in the wealthier nations of the West but also consumers in less developed countries—or what CEO Andrew Witty calls ‘the other 6 billion’ people in the world,” Fortune reports.

From research into new vaccines, such as for malaria, to keeping prices low in the developing world, GSK “bases its drug pricing on the gross national income per capita of each of the 150 countries where it does business—and in dozens of the least developed nations, it reinvests 20% of those profits in local health care infrastructure and worker training,” Fortune explains.

In a blog post, GSK said the selection “reflects the dedication and commitment of our people around the world to modernise the way we do business. We’ve changed how we incentivise our sales professionals, furthered our partnership with Save the Children, gained approval for the world’s first malaria vaccine, opened up access to our intellectual property and committed to reinvesting 20% of our profits in Least Developed Countries.”

  • Novozyme is “earth’s indispensable laboratory”

Novozymes, which has a major presence in the Triangle region, finished ninth.

“If enzymes are nature’s secret sauce for managing our world’s resources better, consider Denmark’s Novozymes as the earth’s indispensable laboratory,” Fortune says.

“The biotechnology company isolates and produces enzymes and microorganisms that help industries make their products more eco-friendly, with examples ranging from efficient detergents to enhanced animal feed. Novozymes has helped customers save 60 million tons of CO2 emissions, and improve their water efficiency by 9% and energy efficiency by 15%. The company has also partnered with Monsanto to perform test-trials on how to improve agricultural output, and next year, will start selling corn and soybean seeds coated with microbes that could increase the average yield of crops by 3%.”

  • IBM’s education efforts

IBM came in 47th.

“Education has long been a focus at IBM—back in 1946 the company joined forces with Columbia University to create the first academic program called ‘computer science,'” Fortune notes.

“But in recent years, Big Blue has ramped up its education efforts, not only working with an increasing number of high schools and universities to set up technical curriculum but also developing more and more software tools for educators.”

Bank of America also cracked the list, placing 16th.

Read the full list at: