What is PESTLE Analysis?

What is a PESTLE analysis? The PESTLE analysis is a tried and tested method for understanding how the external environment shapes the future strategy of a firm

Gary Fox

Apple Pestle Analysis

What is PESTLE Analysis?

In this article I’ll explan what is a PESTLE analysis and give you some tried and tested tips to creating one.

What is PESTLE Analysis?

PESTLE analysis is an analytical tool used to strategically assess the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental factors that may impact an organisation’s operations and strategies. By examining these six external elements, businesses can identify potential threats and opportunities in their external environment, allowing for more informed decision-making and strategic planning.

The History Behind PESTLE Analysis

PESTLE analysis is an analytical method in strategic management and marketing used to scrutinise the external factors influencing a business’s operations: political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental elements. The framework’s origins date back to the 1960s, when Harvard professor Francis Aguilar introduced it as PEST in his seminal book, “Scanning the Business Environment.” Aguilar was an academic who investigated how external factors could dramatically sway business landscapes—at the time, this was a revolutionary way of thinking!

As the relevance of legal and environmental concerns in global business strategies began to become more dominant, the model evolved to include these aspects and shifted to become the PESTLE analysis we know today. This change reflects the shifting paradigms in business strategy and the increasing complexity of markets.

Over the decades, PESTLE has been refined and popularised, taught at MBA business schools, and included in strategic texts as a framework for understanding the external business environment. This PESTLE analysis offers a comprehensive snapshot of market dynamics and facilitates a deep dive into how these dynamics influence organisational strategies.

What To Include In Your PESTLE Analysis

Political:

  • Government stability and upcoming elections
  • International relations and foreign trade policies
  • Taxation laws and tariffs specific to industry
  • Regulatory bodies and processes
  • Political trends and policy changes
  • Public sector contracts and grant availability

Economic:

  • GDP growth rates and economic performance indicators
  • Interest and inflation rates
  • Employment levels and labor market conditions
  • Exchange rates and currency stability
  • Consumer spending and saving rates
  • Access to funding and credit conditions

Social:

  • Population demographics (age, gender, income levels)
  • Cultural trends and lifestyle shifts
  • Consumer attitudes and opinions
  • Health consciousness and wellbeing trends
  • Education levels and standards
  • Social mobility and income distribution

Technological:

  • Emerging technologies impacting the industry
  • Research and development activity within the sector
  • Technological adoption rates and penetration
  • Intellectual property issues and trends
  • Innovations in product or service delivery
  • Infrastructure advancements (internet access, mobile usage)

Legal:

  • Current and impending legislation affecting the business
  • Regulatory requirements and changes
  • Legal disputes within the sector and their outcomes
  • Compliance obligations and standards
  • Intellectual property rights and patent laws
  • Health, safety, and environmental laws

Environmental:

  • Environmental regulations and compliance requirements
  • Climate change policies and impacts
  • Sustainable practices and their adoption
  • Waste disposal and management practices
  • Resource availability (water, energy)
  • Public and governmental attitudes towards ecological issues

Example Data Sources for Your PESTLE Analysis

Political:

  • Government websites and official portals for policy updates and legislation.
  • International trade bodies such as the World Trade Organization for trade policies.
  • Political analysis reports from reputable think tanks like The Brookings Institution or RAND Corporation.
  • News outlets with strong reputations for political coverage like BBC News or The New York Times.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit: Provides annual country and industry reports, including political stability and policy analysis.
  • Freedom House: Releases annual reports on political rights and civil liberties in various countries.
  • Transparency International: Known for its Corruption Perceptions Index, which annually assesses the level of political corruption worldwide.
  • World Bank’s World Governance Indicators: Annual report that includes data on political stability and government effectiveness.

Economic:

  • National statistical offices like the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis for economic indicators.
  • Financial news websites such as Bloomberg or Reuters for current economic conditions and forecasts.
  • International organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank for global economic data.
  • Central banks like the Federal Reserve for interest and exchange rates.
  • World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report: Offers comprehensive annual insights into economic conditions by country.
  • OECD Economic Outlook: Provides analysis and projections for economic growth and financial trends.
  • International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook: A major survey that analyzes global economic trends and prospects.
  • U.S. Federal Reserve’s Beige Book: Published eight times a year, providing a snapshot of economic conditions in each Federal Reserve Bank district.

Social:

  • National census data for demographic information.
  • Social research organizations such as Pew Research Center for trends on social issues.
  • Market research firms like Nielsen for consumer behavior insights.
  • Academic journals and publications for detailed studies on societal trends.
  • United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report: Annual report that includes data on social progress like education, income, and health.
  • World Health Organization: Publishes annual statistics on global health issues, including disease and health care system performance.
  • Eurostat: European statistical office providing a wide range of statistics about social conditions in European countries.
  • Pew Research Center: Releases various reports annually on social and demographic trends globally.

Technological:

  • Technology news websites such as TechCrunch or Wired for updates on emerging technologies.
  • Patent databases like the United States Patent and Trademark Office for technological innovations.
  • Industry-specific publications for R&D trends within sectors.
  • Reports from technology consultancy firms such as Gartner or IDC for in-depth analysis and forecasts.
  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Reports: Annual reports on global trends in intellectual property, including patents and trademarks.
  • International Energy Agency’s Technology Report: Focuses on advancements in energy-related technologies.
  • Gartner Hype Cycle: Provides insights and annual analysis on emerging technology trends and their maturity levels.
  • MIT Technology Review: Offers the annual list of breakthrough technologies that will matter in the future.

Legal:

  • Legal databases such as LexisNexis or Westlaw for comprehensive legal information and updates.
  • Government regulatory websites for updates on compliance and new legal requirements.
  • Legal firms’ publications for insights into significant legal trends affecting industries.
  • Industry associations for specific legal challenges and developments within sectors.
  • World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index: Annual report measuring how the rule of law is experienced in practical, everyday situations by the general public worldwide.
  • Doing Business Report by the World Bank: Annual study of regulatory environment including legal aspects affecting business.
  • International Labour Organization: Reports annually on changes and trends in global employment laws and standards.
  • European Union’s Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy: Offers insights into legal frameworks and changes in EU countries.

Environmental:

  • Environmental protection agency websites for regulations and compliance requirements.
  • Reports from environmental organizations like the World Wildlife Fund or Greenpeace for ecological data.
  • Scientific journals and publications for research on environmental impacts and sustainability.
  • Sustainability reports from leading companies in the industry for insights into best practices and standards.
  • World Resources Institute: Provides research and annual reports on environmental issues including climate change and resource depletion.
  • Global Environmental Outlook by United Nations Environment Programme: Offers comprehensive reports on the environmental state and outlook.
  • The Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum: Includes analysis of environmental risks and their impacts.
  • Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP): Annually publishes data from thousands of companies on their environmental management and performance.

10 Step Guide to Create a PESTLE Analysis

  1. Define the Objective of Your Analysis: Clearly outline what you hope to achieve with the PESTLE analysis. Whether it’s entering a new market, launching a product, or strategic planning, a clear objective will guide the focus of your analysis.
  2. Gather a Team with Diverse Knowledge: Assemble a team with expertise in different areas such as finance, marketing, operations, and sustainability. This diversity will enrich the analysis by bringing multiple perspectives to the table.
  3. Research Political Factors: Identify political conditions including tax policies, trade restrictions, and political stability that could impact your business. Utilise credible sources like government reports and international political analyses to gather data.
  4. Analyse Economic Situations: Examine economic trends such as inflation rates, exchange rates, and economic growth indicators that could influence market operations. Economic forecasts and industry reports can provide valuable insights.
  5. Explore Social Trends: Investigate social and demographic changes, like shifts in consumer behaviour, cultural trends, and population demographics, which can affect product demand and market strategies.
  6. Examine Technological Innovations: Stay updated on technological advancements that may alter business processes or create new opportunities in your industry. Consider both current and emerging technologies.
  7. Review Legal Frameworks: Understand the legal landscape relevant to your business, including compliance requirements, regulatory changes, and forthcoming legislation that might affect operational capabilities.
  8. Assess Environmental Considerations: Evaluate environmental factors such as climate change impacts, resource availability, and shifts in environmental policies that could influence your business operations and reputation.
  9. Compile Data and Identify How Each Factor Affects Your Objective: Bring together all the data collected and analyse how each external factor could impact your objective. This synthesis is critical in identifying potential risks and opportunities.
  10. Formulate Strategies Based on Your Findings: Develop strategic responses to the insights gained from the analysis. Plan for both mitigating risks and capitalising on new opportunities, ensuring readiness for adjustments as external conditions change.

Alternatives to PESTLE

Considering only models or frameworks that examine the external environment:

  • Porter’s Five Forces: Focuses on industry structure and the competitive forces that influence profitability and strategy.
  • Scenario Planning: Allows organisations to explore and prepare for potential future scenarios based on changes in the external environment.
  • Global Risk Analysis: Involves identifying and assessing risks arising from geopolitical, economic, and environmental factors that could impact global operations.

The Pros of Using PESTLE

Introduction: PESTLE offers a comprehensive view of the external environment, crucial for strategic planning.

  • Provides a broader understanding of macro-environmental impacts.
  • Helps identify emerging trends and market conditions.
  • Facilitates risk management by foreseeing potential challenges.
  • Encourages the development of strategic responses to the external environment.
  • Aids in long-term planning and sustainability initiatives.

The Cons of Using PESTLE

Introduction: While valuable, PESTLE analysis has limitations in certain contexts.

  • Can become outdated quickly if external conditions change.
  • Often relies on public data that may not be specific or deep enough.
  • May not predict all future risks, particularly sudden economic or political shifts.
  • Focuses only on external factors, ignoring internal dynamics.

What is STEEPLE

Background and History: STEEPLE, an extension of PESTLE, incorporates Ethical considerations into the analysis. Developed to address the growing importance of ethics and corporate social responsibility, STEEPLE provides a more holistic view of the external environment.

The Pros of Using STEEPLE:

  • Enhances understanding of ethical factors in the business climate.
  • Helps companies align with societal values and expectations.

The Cons of Using STEEPLE:

  • Adds complexity, making the analysis more cumbersome.
  • Ethical considerations can be subjective and vary by region.

PESTLE vs STEEPLE: The main difference is the inclusion of Ethical factors in STEEPLE, making it suitable for businesses prioritising social responsibility.

An Example PESTLE Analysis

This is a high-level PESTLE analysis of Apple; however, for your own, you would probably include more data, e.g. percentage shifts in population…

Apple Pestle Analysis

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