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Tech Industry

Socially responsible online shopping

Alonovo.com allows consumers to put social conscience ahead of price when comparing merchants and the products they offer.

A new shopping Web site due to launch Aug. 22 will let people buy products online from companies that share their customers' social values.

Alonovo.com lets people define the social and environmental values they feel are important and see how different merchants perform in those areas using data from KLD Research and Analytics. The areas include labor relations, animal rights, fair trade, charitable giving, clean-energy use and recycling, among others.

The sales are made through Amazon.com and buyers have access to merchants affiliated with that site.

Alonovo.com--the word alonovo is Latin for "sustainable change"--earns a commission of 5 percent to 7.5 percent for every transaction and will donate 20 percent of that commission to a nonprofit organization of the buyer's choice. The list includes American Red Cross, The Sierra Club, UNICEF and Global Exchange.

The Web site seems to fly in the face of the price-comparison shopping trend of many other e-commerce sites. Alonovo.com co-founder George Polisner acknowledges that price is a big factor for shoppers. However, studies have shown that when prices at different sites are comparable, shoppers are inclined to choose the brand whose values they respect more, he said.

A goal of the Web site is to "provide a counterbalance to the pure profit motive that exists," said Polisner, who worked at Oracle for 12 years. "We believe that if we provide a compelling and easy experience and the pricing is reasonably competitive that (the site) will do well."

The site isn't the first to appeal to Web surfers' ethics. Search engine Rectifi gives every time someone uses it to search, bid on eBay or compare product prices.