Professor Onyeka Osuji was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy in autumn 2023. He is the Dean of Essex Law School and Professor of Law at the University of Essex, and is an internationally recognised expert in business and governance studies, focusing specifically on corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, consumer protection, multinational enterprises and regulation.
Onyeka’s expertise spans vast fields across a range of traditional law disciplines (including public, private, company, environmental, labour and consumer laws) and involves interdisciplinary links to sociology, political economy, business ethics, management, development studies, international studies and area studies. Demonstrative of this is one of Onyeka’s recent publications, Corporate Social Responsibility Across the Globe: Innovative Resolution of Regulation and Governance Challenges (CUP, 2023). He is also a qualified (non-practising) solicitor of England and Wales and a barrister and solicitor of Nigeria and has advised governmental and nongovernmental bodies.
Onyeka’s significant contributions to the wider social sciences include the demonstration of the interoperability of law and other social science disciplines in identifying and addressing issues and challenges in local, national, regional and global societies. He has utilised doctrinal, theoretical, empirical, comparative, critical studies and interdisciplinary approaches in improving understanding of law, business and governance issues in specific local, national, transnational and digital environments. Onyeka has applied legal research methodologies and mixed methods to contribute to academic debates, analyse legal and regulatory rationales and models, challenge orthodoxies and clarify linkages between areas of law and wider social sciences in different contexts. His research and publications highlight creative solutions to legal and regulatory issues confronting scholars, practitioners, businesses and policymakers.
Why do the social sciences matter?
The social sciences identify and explain the contexts for the behaviour of individuals, groups, communities and organisations. This context is important for identifying issues and challenges in local, national, regional and global societies, and assessing possible legal and other interventions and their effectiveness. Law, for example, operates in society and, as such, contextualism facilitated by social sciences enables the efficiency and effectiveness of legal rules and principles to be evaluated. Another interesting point is cross disciplinary analysis and application of conceptual and theoretical paradigms and research methodologies for resolving present and future social challenges.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I was attracted to law due to my belief that it could be a positive tool for society, but concerns were raised when I was in professional legal practice before undertaking postgraduate studies and becoming an academic. In my days of full-service business law practice, I observed that practitioners did not appear to consider society and social justice as crucial considerations. These factors are prominent in my academic work in business and governance, focusing on corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, consumer protection, multinational enterprises and regulation. I enjoy being able to demonstrate the interoperability of law and other social science disciplines and using that to go beyond the black letter law approach and highlight the essential role of social justice in specific contexts.
What is the most urgent issue social scientists need to tackle today and within the next three years?
Impact on society is integral to the work of social sciences and, as such, there is the urgent need for more effective interventions to the issues being raised by climate change and sustainability and sustainable development. These need to be multifaceted and should include tackling what I would label as “acute shadow challenges” such as growing levels of scepticism, economism, isolationism and self-centredness within the public and private spheres across the world. It will require consideration, for example, of the impact of “fake news” on the actions or inactions of the public.
What does being a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences mean to you?
I am hugely delighted to be recognised as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and I am grateful to the Academy. This is a recognition of my ability to work across social sciences disciplines from my base as a legal scholar of business and governance and underlines my contributions to social science scholarship.