Explore UCD

UCD Home >

Alacoque McAlpine

Alacoque McAlpine

Supervisor(s): Dr Sara Benedí Lahuerta

Thesis Title:

Fashioning an Ethical Supply Chain: Supporting efforts to secure a living wage for European factory workers in the hypermobile garment industry.  


A minimum wage sufficient to sustain a basic decent life (‘a living wage’) is a fundamental human right recognised in international law since at least 1919. This has been reiterated in numerous international Declarations, Recommendations, and Agreements. Despite that, in most garment and footwear producing countries, the minimum statutory wage comes nowhere close to being enough to support a decent life. Traditionally the exploitation of workers within the garment industry is seen as a problem most keenly in Asia where stories of low wages, dangerous working conditions and forced overtime are well documented. However, these problems are endemic throughout the garment industry and even in countries within the European Union we are seeing poverty wages and terrible living conditions for people making our clothes.

An important reason is the highly mobile nature of fashion retailers’ business means they can move quickly to source their product from a lower wage economy, so further increasing their negotiating leverage with factory owners. Governments should be the principle regulators of the garment sector; however, governments of producer countries are hesitant about raising minimum wages out of a fear of losing international business. The issue of low wages within the garment sector has been exacerbated by the global growth in “fast fashion”, that is, the manufacture of cheap “disposable” clothes. This sector depends on globally sourced cheap labour and weak or absent regulation to make its profits. As consumption increases and competition becomes even more intense, the race to the bottom in terms of cheap labour and low regulation continues.

This proposed research addresses the less studied garment producing regions of Europe, and will most likely focus on some of the post socialist countries. The focus will be on the interaction among key actors about how to challenge the constant relocation threat and circumvent competition around wages.

Many retailers and brands recognise in principle the right to a living wage in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives; such as codes of conduct. However, almost none of them ensures a living wage in practice. Indeed, there is widespread agreement that private governance mechanisms have not worked and that the corporations ‘quasi-governmental’ function lacks legitimacy.

Thus, a legal solution to tackle the cause of the problem is required and this research will examine whether the EU should intervene and if so , how.


Alacoque Mcalpine is a PhD student at the Sutherland School of Law, UCD. Alacoque studied Business and Law (BBLS) at UCD followed by an MBS in Supply Chain Management at the Michael Smurfit Business School, UCD.

She lectures on Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Leading Sustainability at Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin). Through her research she has come acutely aware of the complexities of global supply chains (SC’s) and the resultant social and environmental issues. Her current research allows her to bring together knowledge of SCM and the law with the aim of closing regulatory gaps in supply chains.

At TU Dublin she is a member of two research groups funded by The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, with the aim of promoting sustainability literacy across the University. She believes that Higher Education institutions have an important role in developing the next generation of global citizens and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). And through new teaching and learning strategies she hopes to advance sustainable development through well-articulated student voices. She has published on Education for Sustainable Development as well as Sustainable SCM.

Alacoque is  passionate about improving the lives of workers across global supply chains. In addition to her academic work she has spoken on Irish National TV and Radio and written for Irish newspapers on the human costs of garment SC’s. She has collaborated with fashion NGO’s  on how to improve the societal impacts of fashion supply chains.

Her PhD research will allow her to  deepen her  knowledge of mechanisms which can bring about positive change.

Research Achievements:

Research Funding/Awards:

  • Febuary 2022, GrowtHUB , TU Dublin. (5,000), 1 year. Project involves design of a Hacking4Sustainability Level 9 module.
  • January 2021, The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (€35,000.00) 1 year. SDG Literacy The project is focused on influencing faculty from all disciplines to embrace education-for-sustainability.
  • June 2020: Strategic Synergies Funding, National Forum for the Enhancement of Teacher and Learning in Higher Education. (€1,000.00), 1 year. Embedding Sustainability Literacy in teaching using the UN Sulitest.

Recent Presentations/Publications:

McAlpine, A., ‘Stakeholder Influence on Improving Labour Rights in Garment Supply Chains’ (European School of Law Toulouse's Doctoral Workshops, Barcelona, July 2022)

McAlpine, A., Freeman, O., Walsh, L., Lowe, Mairi, McMahon, C., ‘Empowering future leaders to develop Global Citizenship competencies through engagement with a Real-World Sustainability Challenge: The Good Clothes Fair Pay Campaign​’ (University of Glasgow, Communicating Sustainability Conference, September 2022)

McAlpine, A., Walsh, L., Freeman, O., McMahon, C., (2022) ‘Enhancing SDG Literacy through Authentic Assessment Strategies’ (Queens University Belfast Learning and Teaching Conference, Belfast, April 2022)

McAlpine, A., Behan, P., Foley, S. & Ferns,S. (2022). SDG 1 No Poverty - Interactive Lesson. Dublin: Technological University Dublin. Retrieved from SDGLiteracy.ie:

(opens in a new window)https://rise.articulate.com/share/89EEQFFy9pf3QreW78dOLtHg024Pujvu#/ CC BY- 4.0

Freeman, O., McAlpine, A., Duffy, D., MacMahon, C.H., Nolan, C., Walsh, C. 2021. Promoting Sustainability Literacy among TU Dublin Business Students through the Sulitest Platform. Presentation to Advance HE Sustainability Symposium: Facing Forward with Sustainability: Principles, Progress and Partnership

Nolan, C., MacMahon, C.H., Freeman, O., McAlpine, A., Walsh, L., Duffy, D. 2021. Education for Sustainable Development: Embedding Sustainability Literacy in Business School Curricula, Irish Academy of Management Annual Conference, August 2021



McAlpine, A. ‘Can a new campaign help garment makers to be paid fairly?’ RTE Brainstorm (19/07/ 2022) available at

(opens in a new window)https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2022/0718/1310895-good-clothes-fair-pay-campaign-garment-workers/

McAlpine, A.  ‘How to be a more sustainable fashion consumer’ RTE Brainstorm (16/12/2020), available at  (opens in a new window)https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/1214/1184346-10-ways-sustainable-fashion/

McAlpine, A. ‘The high cost of fast fashion’ RTE Brainstorm (21/03/2018) available at (opens in a new window)https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2018/0321/948976-the-high-cost-of-fast-fashion/


McAlpine, A. speaking to Mandy Johnston on ‘Taking Stock’ Newstalk [Radio Broadcast] about The Human & Environmental Cost of the Fast Fashion Industry (29/10/2021)

available at (opens in a new window)https://www.newstalk.com/podcasts/taking-stock/the-human-environmental-cost-of-the-fast-fashion-industry-a-history-of-civilization-in-twelve-clocks

McAlpine, A. on the RTE Radio Brainstorm Show [Radio Broadcast] about The Human Cost of Fast Fashion. (10/12/2018) available at (opens in a new window)https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2018/1210/1016232-brainstorm-on-the-radio-episode-2/

UCD Sutherland School of Law

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.