Babbel ESG Report 2021
Welcome to Babbel's first annual Impact Report! Here you'll find details about our social impact and sustainability initiatives based on industry standards for ESG reporting.
Babbel develops and operates an ecosystem of online language-learning experiences. Access to this ecosystem is offered as a subscription both to private customers via the app or web and to business customers for employee training and development or as an employee benefit. Babbel’s subscriptions allow learners access to an ecosystem of learning experiences ranging from lessons and reviews, to podcasts, to live teacher-led classes.
The Babbel ecosystem encompasses (1) different learning experiences, from self-paced learning via lessons and reviews, to audio materials such as podcasts, to live teaching in virtual small-group sessions, (2) different proficiency levels, from beginners to more advanced learners, and (3) different motivations, goals and contexts, from travelers to learners keen to further their career, to those with a desire for continuous self-improvement.
Babbel strives to be a good corporate citizen, implementing policies, practices and programs that reduce our environmental footprint, positively impact the communities in which we operate and build an equitable and accountable workplace.
Babbel is headquartered in Berlin, Germany with a secondary office in New York, NY, USA.
Babbel’s company purpose is “Creating mutual understanding through language”. Successful language learning leads to mastery of vocabulary and grammar, but mutual understanding goes beyond the transfer of information from A-to-B and consists of conversations that create a human-to-human connection and a level of understanding that spans personalities and cultures. Our purpose is ingrained in everything we do — from our products to our workplace operations to our social impact projects. It’s in our DNA, and our leadership team is fully on board.
"I joined Babbel because it felt more meaningful than selling you the 10th pair of jeans, a pack of baby diapers or detergent. All of which are value-adding, no doubt. But none of it compares to the transformational power of language learning." -CEO Arne Schepker
"Social good is at the core of what we are about. That works for us internally as well as for our learners, providing easily accessible language learning opportunities for everyone." -CFO Hermione McKee
At Babbel, our company values are at the heart of everything we do. These short statements are more than just words — they’re our guiding principles and they have helped shape the culture we’ve built.
A learning company — inside and out
We build products that help people learn new languages, and we’re equally committed to learning ourselves — both as a company and as individuals.
What matters to learners, matters to us.
Learners are at the heart of our work - we are with them every step of their journey.
We are bold and humble
We’re determined to change the way the world learns, and we understand that we have much to learn ourselves.
We make the complicated simple
Business, technology and learning are all complicated enough. That’s why we prefer smart, simple solutions with a bias for action.
Diversity makes us stronger
Diversity isn’t just part of the Babbel mindset — it’s a strategic advantage.
We love what we do
We’re changing the way people learn languages. And we’re having fun doing it.
Contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
As a member of the global business community, Babbel is committed to helping meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in ways that align with our company purpose. While we can make small impacts that further a number of the SDGs, the two that we can make the most significant contributions to are listed below, along with the relevant targets laid out by the UN.
As a language-learning company, there is a clear connection between our products, our purpose and this SDG. Additionally, many of our social impact initiatives focus on education access and equity.
Here are the sub-targets of this goal to which we could help contribute:
Target 4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
Target 4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
Target 4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development
Babbel lessons are inclusive and equitable, and are open to everyone regardless of gender, race, age or social status. Our core product is relatively inexpensive, and part of our social impact strategy is the donation of free and discounted Babbel subscriptions to non-profit organizations and individuals in need.
Here are the sub-targets of this goal to which we could help contribute:
Target 10.1 By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average
Target 10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
Target 10.7 Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies
Social Impact & Sustainability at Babbel
In alignment with our company purpose and values, as well as our commitment to contributing to the aforementioned SDGs, making a positive impact on our stakeholders is a core part of Babbel’s business strategy. In addition to our investors, Babbel’s stakeholders include our employees, our learners, the environment, and the communities in which we operate. Let’s take a look at three key areas in which we are taking action to minimize harm and maximize our positive and sustainable impact: our employees, our communities, and our planet.
Because Babbel is for everyone, its team is as diverse as its content. Between its headquarters in Berlin and its U.S. office in New York, Babbel currently has 594 employees from 68 nationalities as of December 2021. Our People and Organization (P&O) team works hard to ensure that our employees are safe, supported, and engaged at work.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) at Babbel
One of our core values is “Diversity makes us stronger,” and we are working continuously to ensure Babbel is a diverse and inclusive workplace for our employees.
DE&I task forces have been established in both the Berlin and New York offices to discuss and address hiring, promotion, inclusive meetings, pay equity, anti-discrimination, and other topics. Berlin’s group implemented a series of educational “lunch and learn” sessions about DE&I topics, such as unconscious bias, equity vs. equality, allyship, and more. Additionally, a global task force worked with an external diversity consultant to compile a set of DE&I creative guidelines for content used in lessons, marketing, and other communications.
Belonging @ Babbel
In order to facilitate the creation of a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, a group of Babbel employees compiled an internal Belonging @ Babbel space, where employees can access information and resources related to these topics.
This excerpt from the space describes what it means to belong at Babbel:
It means that instead of just expecting everyone to fit into a pre-made culture, to adapt to whatever dominant norm already exists, that we are all valued and respected for who we truly are. It means being accepted for being ourselves, rather than being forced to change to be like everyone else. So no "covering", no pretence. Just our unique, authentic selves at work everyday. This is about us having a sense of trust and feeling connected, listened to and understood. By creating a sense of belonging, we amplify everyone's voices and appreciate one another's unique backgrounds. And we build a company where we are all self-actualised and all reach our full potential. This is about us purposely creating a culture for us.
Belonging @ Babbel is the umbrella space for several employee initiatives, including the Accessibility & Disability Steering Group, DE&I Ambassadors, Femgineers+ (supporting the role and reach of women & non-binary people in tech at Babbel), and Strangers Talk (a speaker series for Babbelonians to share their stories and perspectives on a topic of their choosing).
In addition to Belonging @ Babbel, other internal spaces to support employees include Parents @ Babbel and Mental Health @ Babbel — both providing information and resources for employees who need support and a sense of community.
By the Numbers
We pride ourselves on our diverse and inclusive workplace. Here’s a look at some key diversity numbers within our organization.
|countries represented||of employees are female||of managers are female or gender diverse|
In terms of diversity of nationalities, Babbel has employees from 68 countries and from every continent except Antarctica. The breakdown of employees by gender is 54 percent female, 45 percent male, and 1 percent gender diverse. When looking specifically at employees in management positions, we have 54 percent female management and 46 percent male management. Additionally, 40 percent of our executive leadership is female and our supervisory Board of Directors is 50 percent female. The employee age breakdown is 23 percent 20-29, 59 percent 30-39, 15 percent 40-49, and 2 percent 50+. All of this data reflects the head count as of December 2021.
Babbel’s Berlin office uses salary grids to ensure equitable pay for employees at each level. Since implementing these grids, the gender pay gap between men and women has fallen to virtually zero (men make 0.65 percent more).
Our P&O team conducts ongoing employee engagement surveys through Peakon to track employee satisfaction over time and against industry benchmarks. As of September 2021, Babbe’s overall engagement score was 7.7 out of 10, which is very much in line with other companies in the technology industry. When we drilled down on specific topics, we found that Babbel’s scores were above benchmark in workload, autonomy, growth, recognition, and reward. We have also begun to measure employee satisfaction in areas related to DE&I, as part of our Peakon Include initiative, and to take action to improve those scores and address any specific feedback given.
In 2021, we had an employee attrition rate of approximately 25 percent.
Babbel provides employees with a comprehensive benefits package, tailored to their office location. Berlin employees get 30 days of vacation, flexible hours, a company bike, commuter benefits, opportunity for sabbatical, and free fruit and drinks in the office. New York employees get 20 days of paid time off, health care, 401k matching, commuter benefits, a CitiBike subscription, parental leave, and free snacks and drinks in the office. All employees get unlimited access to Babbel lessons, as well as access to in-house trainings via Babbel Academy.
Berlin employees (below the executive level) are represented by the works council, an elected employee body that represents the interests of the workforce and expresses their issues to the company. Each works council is elected for four years and the number of works council representatives is determined by the number of staff in the company. We currently have 11 works council representatives and 4 substitutes.
Babbel’s P&O team and the works council came together voluntarily to publish a Works Agreement on Discrimination, Bullying, and Sexual Harassment, which lays out guiding principles for how employees should treat one another and processes for when these principles are violated.
Always Learning and Growing
One of our core values is “we are a learning company inside and out,” and we attempt to bring this value to life through various professional development programs and learning opportunities offered to employees. In addition to providing employees with unlimited access to all Babbel lessons, we also offer access to Babbel Academy, which offers 107 hours of free training in topics ranging from communication to leadership skills, and from project management to mental health. US employees are also offered periodic training sessions in topics like interviewing and bias & inclusion. In addition, job shadowing in other departments is encouraged at Babbel’s headquarters.
Babbel employees receive annual performance reviews incorporating 360 degree feedback from managers, peers, and direct reports.
While environmental issues aren’t a primary concern for Babbel, due to our lack of physical products or complex supply chain, we are taking steps where we can to mitigate any negative impacts on the environment in our regular operations. The vast majority of our environmental touchpoints occur within our two company offices: our headquarters in Berlin and our smaller, secondary office in New York. Our office management teams work diligently to ensure our operations are as responsible and eco-friendly as possible. Additionally, our Berlin office was built with DGNB standards in mind and has a number of environmentally conscious features.
Going Renewable and Cutting Carbon
Our Berlin headquarters uses 100% renewable energy and includes features to make the building highly energy efficient, including thermal and acoustic insulation, reduction of air circulation at off-peak times, and energy-saving lamps in the building’s toilets. Our US office also has eco-friendly features, including overhead lights triggered by movement sensors. Both of our offices have water dispensers that reduce the need for plastic bottles. Additionally, the sinks in our headquarters are equipped with sensor water taps to avoid water wastage.
Babbel has a number of measures in place for responsible waste management and to reduce our contribution to landfills. As previously mentioned, we have eliminated or greatly reduced our use of plastic bottles in both offices. We recycle all eligible materials, including paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, and electronic equipment. We re-use items as much as possible, but when we no longer have a use for certain objects, such as furniture, we donate them rather than disposing of them. In Berlin, we send empty printer ink cartridges back to our supplier to be refilled.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of Babbel employees have been working remotely, and going forward, Babbel plans to implement a hybrid work policy that will allow for more flexibility and cut down on commuting. When employees do go into the office, they are incentivized to use eco-friendly means of transportation. Babbel offers its employees a public transit benefit and/or a free subscription to a bike-share program.
Apart from our offices, which as mentioned above, meet high standards of energy efficiency, Babbel’s primary carbon footprint comes from our data storage, which is hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS is working toward carbon neutrality and has announced its plans to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.
Our office management team takes the environment into account in purchasing decisions. We’re continuously monitoring our suppliers and improving our sourcing practices to focus on buying from local or regional companies, avoiding corporations with sustainability practices inconsistent with our own. Buying locally supports local producers and reduces carbon emissions from long-distance shipping.
Carbon Neutral in 2021
To reduce the remainder of our greenhouse gas emissions, Babbel purchased carbon offsets from BEF. The project we were supporting is Doe Mountain Forest, located in northeast Tennessee. The project type is: improved forest management and the standard is American Carbon Registry.
Due to Babbel’s purpose (see below), brand identity, and products, the Social (“S”) part of ESG is the area in which we can make the most tangible impact. As mentioned in the previous section, we offer a wide array of benefits and protections to our employees and have made diversity, equity, and inclusion a priority internally. However, Babbel also has the expertise and ability to make a significant social impact externally.
Social Impact Projects
Our company purpose is “creating mutual understanding through language,” and we periodically take on social impact projects in the communities in which we operate that align with this purpose. As we further develop our impact strategy, our goal is to choose a larger social impact project to work on, in addition to supporting employee-led community development initiatives on a smaller scale.
Highlighted Social Impact Projects
Save our students campaign: During the Covid-19 crisis, students could sign up to learn with Babbel for free. In the end, over 200,000 students benefited from the campaign globally and more than 100,000 language learners had the chance to explore Babbel for the first time
Collaboration with the Syrian Youth Assembly to help displaced youth learn languages by providing them with free access to the Babbel app: Since August 2020, more than 10,000 SYA members have spent more than 3 million minutes learning with Babbel
Refugee crisis in Germany: From 2015 to 2017, Babbel has partnered with the Senate of Berlin and voluntary local support groups to provide free courses, with face-to-face support to help deliver vouchers to refugees arriving in Germany: More than 15,000 vouchers for Babbel’s app-based language courses worth €1 million were delivered to refugees and more than 15 workshops were conducted by Babbel’s didactics team to support voluntary German teachers
Collaboration with The 519: Babbel supported Toronto’s LGBTQ2S focused organization, The 519, with the goal of lending support to the LGBTQ newcomer community at the local level in Canada, by providing free language-learning support to 250 refugees in their refugee asylum program and settlement support services
Babbel wants to make a positive impact on the world, particularly in the areas of access to education, supporting immigrants and refugees, and fostering depolarization and peace, and we’ll continue to use our language expertise and language-learning products to make positive contributions to addressing these challenges.
Protecting Our Customers’ Data
Customer data privacy is a priority for Babbel, and we work hard to handle it responsibly. Our general policies regarding data protection are to only collect and process data with the data subject’s consent or where expressly allowed by law, and that data entrusted to employees must be protected from abuse, destruction and loss. The handling of personal data is to be oriented toward the goal of collecting, processing or using as little data as possible from a data subject. We are committed to integrating this principle into our data processing procedures and to anonymise or pseudonymize personal data insofar as this is possible in line with the intended use. Any unauthorised collection, processing or use for other purposes is strictly prohibited.
Standing Against Bribery and Corruption
We do not tolerate any form of bribery or corruption. Offering or accepting a bribe in any form, directly or indirectly, is strictly prohibited. We are aware of the potential legal implications of bribery or corruption under labor and criminal law for Babbel as well as for employees and we are committed to prevent any such behaviour at Babbel. To ensure such commitment, our Anti-Corruption Corporate Policy sets forth high standards for doing business at Babbel worldwide.
We’re off to a great start on our sustainability journey There’s still work to be done Here are some goals we have for 2022 and the future
- Susanne Wechsler (she/her) — Director of Babbel Impact
- Lea Kliemann (she/her) — Junior Social Impact & Sustainability Manager
- Jessica Zewe (she/her) — junior Social Impact & Sustainability Manager
For questions about social impact and sustainability at Babbel, please contact our impact team by email: email@example.com
Special thanks to all the Babbel teams who helped compile this report, as well as to EY for their support.
If you want to read more about Babbel's ESG topics, you can visit this website.