How to do a PESTEL analysis

A PESTEL analysis explores the threats and opportunities a firm faces. These result from the Political, Economic, Social (or Socio-Economic), Technological, Environmental and Legal changes occurring in its competitive environment.

It is often termed a macro-scanning tool. This is because it involves looking a the big-picture long-term changes in the environment.


The Political sector includes any government, parastatal and special interest group actions or lobbying in the form of policy, taxes and duties. It is important to understand the political agenda and how it might move for or against certain industries or practices.

This might include:
  • 'positive' moves such as the subsidies offered for alternative green energy production, or
  • 'negative' moves such as increasing taxes on alcohol or tobacco.
Depending on your firm, it may be important to consider both domestic policy as well as international policy, trade policy and pressure groups. You should also consider the effects and/or threats of:
  • war and terrorism,
  • internal political conflict and instability, and
  • the potential impact of future elections and political coalitions.
(See, for example, Three different regulatory responses and their impact on industry.)


The Economic sector includes the general economic environment and the effects that this might have on customers, distributors and suppliers.

Factors, to consider might include indicators such as
  • GDP,
  • inflation,
  • interest rates,
  • stock market conditions,
  • disposable income,
  • employment, and
  • supply and demand.
These might operate in aggregate or on a sector-specific basis.

Internationally, you might also consider:
  • import/export conditions,
  • foreign exchange conditions, and
  • trade deficits/surpluses.
In conducting your analysis, it is important to distinguish between
  • long-term trends and structural issues, and
  • seasonal or cyclical issues.


The Social sector considers changes in social preferences and norms. This is sometimes also called the Socio-Economic or Socio-Cultural sector.

These could be driven by:
  • demographic changes such as 
    • population ageing,
    • changes in family size and dynamics,
    • immigration and emigration, and
    • changes to ethnic and/or religious views and norms.
  • changes to education standards and average levels of education, 
  • changes to work patterns and the relative attractiveness of different types of work,
  • changes to leisure activities, living standards and lifestyles
  • fashion trends and fads, consumer attitudes and opinions, and lifestyle changes.


The Technological sector considers the impact of all forms of technological development and innovation.

This could include
  • manufacturing, production and transportation technologies, as well as
  • the use of technology in coordinating and communicating activities both upstream and downstream in the supply chain.
The development of information technologies, including the internet and associated technologies such as mobile access is obviously a major factor here. You should consider both the consumer and business-to-business applications of this. But you should also consider improvement in manufacturing processes, materials, energy and transportation.

Finally, you should consider:
  • research a development capability and pipelines,
  • patent protection and intellectual property ("IP") laws (and their efficacy),
  • maturity and obsolescence.


The Environmental sector has become increasingly important in recent years as stakeholders have become more conscious of man's impact on the natural environment.

  • changes and opportunities throughout the value chain which could impact the environment, including,
  • opportunities for renewable energy, waste management and recycling,
  • opportunities to communicate what the organisation is doing about them more effectively, and
  • the impact of changes in weather conditions, climate, and pollution on the business.


Finally, the Legal sector looks at changes in laws, lawsuits and regulations which affect the business. These can be general changes in the industry, or specific lawsuits or regulatory interventions or sanctions which the business is facing.

These could include:
  • anti-trust,
  • employment,
  • data protection,
  • health and safety,
  • copyright, patent, intellectual property, and
  • consumer protection laws, to name a few.


There are countless varieties of the traditional PESTEL analysis, such as PESTLE, PESTLIED, STEEPLE, SLEPT, STEPE and even just PEST, with the additional letter variously standing for Ethical, Labour, International, Demographic, etc. The existence of all of these variations drives home the fact that it does not really matter which words and letters you use as long as you have a systematic review of the competitive environment.

Do it well!

PESTEL analysis, like SWOT analysis is frequently criticised. Usually, this is usually on the basis of an analysis that has been done poorly. For example, PESTEL analysis often degenerates into long lists of 'things' without context, relevance or evidence. Don't fall into that trap. If you do, most of the time you spend doing PESTEL analysis will be wasted.

As you work through each quadrant, it is important to identify and document:
  • what is happening or could happen,
  • what the impact on your firm/division/department could be,
  • what evidence you have to support this assessment.
A good way to express something on a PESTEL would be along the lines of:
X could/will/is caus(e/ing)/lead(ing) to Y (which leads to Z)
with evidence provided in supporting paragraphs and charts. 
Depending on how thorough you are being, you could also try to quantify the likelihood and impact of various levels of change happening, and the time frames over which they might happen.

Finally, you should consider the environmental signals you intend to monitor to stay abreast of any changes, or the actions you might take to influence the outcomes (such as joining an industry or policy group and or lobbying for changes).

The PESTEL analysis is an essential strategy analysis tool for any strategist's toolkit. It is particularly powerful when used in conjunction with a Porter's 5 Forces analysis to identify the threats and opportunities a firm faces as part of a SWOT analysis. A PESTEL analysis is also vital input to Scenario Planning.

You can build a PESTEL analysis, alone or with a team, using, the online collaborative tool for business strategy development and execution.

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