Businesses that put community ahead of profit are playing an increasingly significant role in Brighton and Hove's economy.

There are 110 social enterprises in the city, showed research by the Brighton & Hove Business Community Partnership (BHBCP) and the University of Brighton.

They have a combined turnover of £21 million and employ 1,200.

Social enterprises are run as businesses but have strong social or environmental aims and any profits are used to support their work in the community.

An example is the Robin Hood pub in Norfolk Square, set up by entrepreneur Martin Webb, which donates its profits to charity.

Twenty per cent earned more than 91 per cent of their income from trading, while five per cent depended on charitable grants for the same percentage of their income.

The sector employs more than 3,000 volunteers, 47 per cent of whom are older than 50, and offers 285 work placements every year.

And more than half - 52 per cent - employ staff from "disadvantaged groups" such as older people and disabled people.

The top three social aims are education (42 per cent), community development (35 per cent) and employment and training for disadvantaged groups (33 per cent).

Experts put the rise of the sector in Brighton down to its thriving community and voluntary sector which have traditionally depended on grants.

Oliver Maxwell, BHBCP director, said: "This information has never been collected in the city before and we suspect that the number of social enterprises is likely to be even higher than shown in this report. The research confirms Brighton and Hove has a growing social enterprise sector and that businesses with a social conscience play a significant role in the economic success of the city."

The report aims to promote social enterprises, identify their support and training needs and create greater networking opportunities in the sector.

Hannah Corbett, managing director of East Communications, a social enterprise PR agency in Moulsecoomb, said: "The best way to support social enterprise is at the procurement level and this report highlights the choice of organisations that statutory organisations and businesses can approach when it comes to large scale tendering opportunities.

"Social enterprises like East are competing well in a lively procurement environment and standing tall against larger, traditionally-run businesses."

Brighton and Hove City Council is expected to give its backing to a support package for social enterprises at a meeting on Thursday.

It would include an online directory, advice sessions and mentoring.

Councillor Sue John, who represents South Portslade, added: "This mapping exercise demonstrates that social enterprise is growing and with a little more support could make an even greater contribution to the local economy.

"Many are performing a valuable social role and offer an accessible route into employment for vulnerable people who would find it hard to get a job with one of the big corporates."