There is growing recognition among Americans that levels of income inequality are becoming untenable, and that the promise of achieving and sustaining the so-called “American Dream” is falling out of reach for millions. A KRC survey of 1,000 Americans found that 86% believe that income inequality is a significant problem.

Why does this matter for Corporate America?

Part of the reason, at least, is that Corporate America is seen, rightly or wrongly, as directly responsible for the state of the current economy, and is held accountable for not doing more to making the American Dream easier to achieve: only 22% of Americans agree that Corporate America is working to reduce the levels of income equality that exist.

Furthermore, Americans see Corporate America as not only refusing to acknowledge their contribution to the problem, but also hiding from their responsibility to confront and address a collaborative solution to this national dilemma. KRC’s public opinion polling has identified a direct connection between how Corporate America operates and the blame it receives for the rising level of income inequality – one of the few notable and rare points of consensus among both the political right and the left these days.

We know there has been a growing level of media coverage and conversation focused on inequality, the death of the middle class, and the growing difficulties of achieving the American Dream.

What is new, though, is this level of responsibility placed at the feet of Corporate American and the culpability corporations have to identifying and working towards a solution.

In our estimation, there are several direct implications to these conclusions and insights:

  1. While corporations themselves understandably may not want to engage directly, they need to address societal issues where ever they have relevance and permission to play.
  2. Corporate advertising and branding cannot solely be about selling products and services – corporations must truly aim for (and achieve) a higher purpose – answering not only what they do, but why they do it.

Over 90% of Americans blame corporate American for many of the current economic problems we face, and a similar number blame corporations for contributing to the widening (and concerning) levels of inequality in society today.

Corporate America must be a part of the solution.