In a national survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by KRC Research, 71% gave Corporate America’s performance a grade of “C” or lower. One-third of American surveyed disagreed with the statement, “what is good for American business is good for America.” No doubt some of this is in direct response to the slow and lumbering economy, but there is real widespread negativity – even outright anger that exists.

But even frustrated and angry, the American public believes that corporations – both individually and collectively – are part of the solutions to many of the problems and ills we face as a country and as a society.  Part of this reaction is likely no doubt connected with the uncivil partisan wrangling in politics in Washington and more generally within the media.

So, specifically: what do Americans desire of corporations? It’s quite clear they expect them to engage and communicate with stakeholders on important challenges and issues. But beyond that, Americans actually want and expect corporations to put a stake in the ground and convene dialogues so solutions can be discussed and resolved. As sour on the corporate sector as they are today, Americans see companies both having the responsibility and the wherewithal – financial and beyond – to make a big impact.

American businesses find themselves facing an opportunity to position themselves at the corporate level as a convener of how to address and solve big societal issues. As businesses look to differentiate themselves by addressing solutions through corporate marketing and thought leadership, the more recognition, goodwill, and appreciation they’ll generate. The course is clear – the ball is in business’ court.