What is PESTEL Analysis?

PESTEL Analysis is a strategic framework used to evaluate the external environment of a business by breaking down the opportunities and risks into Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal factors.

PESTEL Analysis can be an effective framework to use in Corporate Strategy Planning and for identifying the pros and cons of a Business Strategy. The PESTEL framework is an extension of the PEST strategic framework, one that includes additional assessment of the Environmental and Legal factors that can impact a business.

Below we break down the key items of each of the 6 Factors of the PESTEL framework (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental, and Legal). Points derived from PESTEL Analysis can be incorporated into other strategic frameworks, such as SWOT Analysis and Porter’s 5 Forces, where relevant.

Political Factors

When looking at political factors, you are looking at how government policy and actions intervene in the economy and other factors that can affect a business. These include the following:

  • Tax Policy
  • Trade Restrictions
  • Tariffs
  • Bureaucracy

One of the reasons that elections tend to be a period of uncertainty for a country is that different political parties have diverging views and strategies for policy on the items above.

Political Factor Example: A company decides to move its operations to a different state after a new government is elected on a campaign to implement policies that would adversely impact the company’s core operations.

Economic Factors

Economic Factors take into account the various aspects of the economy, and how the outlook on each area could impact your business. These economic indicators are usually measured and reported by Central Banks and other Government Agencies. They include the following:

  • Economic Growth Rates
  • Interest Rates
  • Exchange Rates
  • Inflation
  • Unemployment Rates

Often these are the focus of external environment analysis. The economic outlook is of extreme importance for a business, but the importance of the other PESTEL factors should not be overlooked.

Economic Factor Example: A company decides to refinance its debt after an interest rate decrease is announced.

Social Factors

PESTEL analysis also takes into consideration social factors, which are related to the cultural and demographic trends of society. Social norms and pressures are key to determining consumer behavior. Factors to be considered are the following:

  • Cultural Aspects & Perceptions
  • Health Consciousness
  • Populations Growth Rates
  • Age Distribution
  • Career Attitudes

Social Factors Example: The percentage of the American population that smokes has decreased since the 1970s, due to changes in society’s perception of health and wellness.

Technological Factors

Technological factors are linked to innovation in the industry, as well as innovation in the overall economy. Not being up to date to the latest trends of a particular industry can be extremely harmful to operations. Technological factors include the following:

  • R&D Activity
  • Automation
  • Technological Incentives
  • The Rate of change in technology

Technological Factors Example: A company decides to digitize their physical data files to allow for quicker access to company information.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors concern the ecological impacts on business. As weather extremes become more common, businesses need to plan how to adapt to these changes. Key environmental factors include the following:

  • Weather Conditions
  • Temperature
  • Climate Change
  • Pollution
  • Natural disasters (tsunami, tornadoes, etc.)

Additionally, there is increasing importance for businesses to be environmentally friendly with their operations, as evidenced by the rise of Corporate Sustainability Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Examples of CSR initiatives include carbon footprint reduction efforts and transitions into renewable material and energy sources.

Environmental Factors Example: An agricultural company has to adjust its harvest forecasts due to unexpectedly dry seasonal conditions that will prevent crop growth.

Legal Factors

There is often uncertainty regarding the difference between political and legal factors in the context of a PESTEL analysis. Legal factors pertain to any legal forces that define what a business can or cannot do. Political factors involve the relationship between business and the government. Political and legal factors can intersect when governmental bodies introduce legislature and policies that affect how businesses operate.

Legal factors include the following:

  • Industry Regulation
  • Licenses & Permits
  • Labor Laws
  • Intellectual Property

Legal Factors Example: A restaurant is forced to shut down after not meeting food safety standards set out in state law.

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