PESTLE analysis tool

PESTLE Analysis Tool (PEST Analysis) – History and Templates


The Environment Scan – Environmental Organizational Scanning

PESTLE Analysis micro site – HistoryIntroductionTemplatesHR exampleSchools & Education

PESTLE Analysis - PEST analysis

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History of the PESTLE analysis (PEST Analysis)

Originally designed as a business environmental scan, the PEST or PESTLE analysis is an analysis of the external macro environment (big picture) in which a business operates. These are often factors which are beyond the control or influence of a business, however are important to be aware of when doing product development, business or strategy planning.

This page has been developed to help and support anyone with activities or projects which require use of the PESTLE analysis tool to undertake an environmental scan of an organizations operating environment.

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It is important to take into account PESTLE factors for the following main reasons:

  • Firstly, by making effective use of PESTLE analysis, you ensure that what you are doing is aligned positively with the powerful forces of change that are affecting our working environment. By taking advantage of change, you are much more likely to be successful than if your activities oppose it
  • Secondly, good use of PESTLE analysis helps you avoid taking action that is likely to lead to failure for reasons beyond your control
  • Thirdly, PESTLE is useful when you start a new product or service. Use of PESTLE helps you break free of assumptions, and helps you quickly adapt to the realities of the new environment


History of PEST

So where did the term PEST or PESTLE derive? What were the origins?

The term PESTLE has been used regularly in the last 10+ years and its true history is difficult to establish.

From our research, the earliest know reference to tools and techniques for ‘Scanning the Business Environment’ appears to be by Francis J. Aguilar (1967) who discusses ‘ETPS’ – a mnemonic for the four sectors of his taxonomy of the environment: Economic, Technical, Political, and Social.

Shortly after its publication, Arnold Brown for the Institute of Life Insurance (in the US) reorganized it as ‘STEP’ (Strategic Trend Evaluation Process) as a way to organise the results of his environmental scanning.

Thereafter, this ‘macro external environment analysis’, or ‘environmental scanning for change’, was modified yet again to become a so-called STEPE analysis (the Social, Technical, Economic, Political, and Ecological taxonomies).

In the 1980s, several other authors including Fahey, Narayanan, Morrison, Renfro, Boucher, Mecca and Porter included variations of the taxonomy classifications in a variety of orders: PEST, PESTLE, STEEPLE etc. Why the slightly negative connotations of PEST have proven to be more popular than STEP is not known. There is no implied order or priority in any of the formats.

Some purists claim that STEP or PEST still contain headings which are appropriate for all situations, other claim that the additional breakdown of some factors to help individuals and teams undertaking an environmental scan.

Quite who and when added what elements to the mnemonic is a mystery, but what we do know is that the actual order and words contained are common to certain parts of the world and streams of academic study. The term PESTLE is particularly popular on HR and introductory marketing courses in the UK. Others favour PEST, STEP or STEEPLE.

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Introduction to The PESTLE Analysis tool

PESTLE analysis is a useful tool for understanding the “big picture” of the environment in which you are operating, and the opportunities and threats that lie within it. By understanding the environment in which you operate (external to your company or department), you can take advantage of the opportunities and minimize the threats.

Specifically the PEST or PESTLE analysis is a useful tool for understanding risks associated with market growth or decline, and as such the position, potential and direction for a business or organization.

For the purposes of this page we will focus on the PESTLE variation of the acronym.

The PESTLE Analysis is often used as a generic ‘orientation’ tool, finding out where an organization or product is in the context of what is happening out side that will at some point effect what is happening inside an organization.

A PESTLE analysis is a business measurement tool, looking at factors external to the organization. It is often used within a strategic SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis).

PESTLE is an acronym for

Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental factors,

which are used to assess the market for a business or organizational unit strategic plan

The PESTLE analysis headings are a framework for reviewing a situation, and can also be used to review a strategy or position, direction of a company, a marketing proposition, or idea. There are many variants on this model including PEST analysis and STEEPLE analysis.

Completing a PESTLE analysis can be a simple or complex process. It all depends how thorough you need to be.  It is a good subject for workshop sessions, as undertaking this activity with only one perspective (i.e. only one persons view) can be time consuming and miss critical factors.

Use PESTLE analysis for business and strategic planning, marketing planning, business and product development and research reports.

The PESTLE template below includes sample questions or prompts, whose answers are can be inserted into the relevant section of the table.

The questions are examples of discussion points, and should be altered depending on the subject of the analysis, and how you want to use it.

Make up your own PESTLE questions and prompts to suit the issue being analyzed and the situation (i.e. the people doing the work and the expectations of them).

It is important to clearly identify the subject of a PESTLE analysis (that is a clear goal or output requirement), because an analysis of this type is multi faceted in relation to a particular business unit or proposition – if you dilute the focus you will produce an unclear picture – so be clear about the situation and perspective that you use PESTLE to analyze.

A market is defined by what is addressing it, be it a product, company, organization, brand, business unit, proposition, idea, etc, so be clear about how you define the market being analyzed, particularly if you use PESTLE analysis in workshops, team exercises or as a delegated task. The PESTLE subject should be a clear definition of the market being addressed, which might be from any of the following standpoints:

  • A company looking at its market
  • A product looking at its market
  • A brand in relation to its market
  • A local business unit or function in a business
  • A strategic option, such as entering a new market or launching a new product
  • A potential acquisition
  • A potential partnership
  • An investment opportunity

Be sure to describe the subject for the PESTLE analysis clearly so that people contributing to the analysis, and those seeing the finished PESTLE analysis, properly understand the purpose of the PESTLE assessment and implications.


PESTLE analysis template

Other than the main headings, the questions and issues in the template below are examples and not exhaustive – add your own and amend these prompts to suit your situation, the experience and skill level of whoever is completing the analysis, and what you aim to produce from the analysis. A word document of this tool is available in our ResourceZone

The context upon which a PESTLE analysis is undertaken can help to determine how to interpret facts and information discovered.

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PEST/ PESTLE Analysis on ____________________(organization name) SWOT
SWOT Context ____________________
SWOT Date of Analysis     ____________ view
PESTLE Analysis factors Your notesPotential Impact:Implication and importance
The list below is just to get you started. Remember to put these, and others that you add in the context of your organization or business.For example if you are a small private company the behaviours of a Wall Mart / Tesco or other large international player may well impact on you.If you are a local authority, government changes will change your priorities. In the NHS changes to treatments and public attitudes will also impact etc.About your organization.How might the factors listed on the left impact your business or part of the organization?H – HighM – MediumL – LowU – UndeterminedTime Frame:0 – 6 months6 – 12 months12 – 24 months24 + monthsType:Positive +Negative -UnknownImpact:Increasing >Unchanged =Decreasing <UnknownRelative Importance:CriticalImportantUn-importantUnknown
Political– SWOT

  • Trading policies
  • Funding, grants and initiatives
  • Home market lobbying/pressure groups
  • International pressure groups
  • Wars and conflict
  • Government policies
  • Government term and change
  • Elections
  • Inter-country relationships/attitudes
  • Terrorism
  • Political trends
  • Governmental leadership
  • Government structures
  • Internal political issues
  • Shareholder/ stakeholder needs/ demands
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
Economic– SWOT

  • Home economy situation
  • Home economy trends
  • Overseas economies and trends
  • General taxation issues
  • Taxation changes specific to product/services
  • Seasonality/weather issues
  • Market and trade cycles
  • Specific industry factors
  • Market routes and distribution trends
  • Customer/end-user drivers
  • International trade/monetary issues
  • Disposable income
  • Job growth/unemployment
  • Exchange rates
  • Tariffs
  • Inflation
  • Interest and exchange rates
  • Consumer confidence index
  • Import/export ratios
  • Production level
  • Internal finance
  • Internal cash flow
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
Social– SWOT

  • Consumer attitudes and opinions
  • Media views
  • Law changes affecting social factors
  • Brand, company, technology image
  • Consumer buying patterns
  • Major events and influences
  • Buying access and trends
  • Ethnic/religious factors
  • Advertising and publicity
  • Ethical issues
  • Demographics (age, gender, race, family size,)
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Population shifts
  • Education
  • Trends
  • Fads
  • Diversity
  • Immigration/emigration
  • Health
  • Living standards
  • Housing trends
  • Fashion & role models
  • Attitudes to work
  • Attitudes to people doing certain types of work
  • Leisure activities
  • Occupations
  • Earning capacity
  • Staff attitudes
  • Management style
  • organizational culture
  • Changes to education system
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
Technological– SWOT

  • Competing technology development
  • Research funding
  • Associated/dependent technologies
  • Replacement technology/solutions
  • Maturity of technology
  • Manufacturing maturity and capacity
  • Information and communications
  • Consumer buying mechanisms/technology
  • Technology legislation
  • Innovation potential
  • Technology access, licensing, patents
  • Intellectual property issues
  • Global communications
  • Inventions
  • Innovations
  • New discoveries
  • Research
  • Energy uses/sources/fuels
  • Communications
  • Rate of obsolescence
  • Health (pharmaceutical, equipment, etc.)
  • Manufacturing advances
  • Information technology
  • Internet
  • Transportation
  • Bio-tech
  • Genetics
  • Waste removal/recycling
  • Email
  • M-learning
  • E-learning
  • Collaboration tools
  • Software changes
  • RSI
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
Additional split of information if doing a PESTLE analysis rather than a PEST analysis:
Legal– SWOT

  • Current legislation home market
  • Future legislation
  • European/international legislation
  • Regulatory bodies and processes
  • Environmental regulations
  • Employment law
  • Consumer protection
  • Industry-specific regulations
  • competitive regulations
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
  • ___________________
Environmental– SWOT


Remember this is only a tool. Call it what you like – use whatever factors you feel are appropriate.  Other variations include:

  • PEST analysis (STEP analysis) – Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological
  • PESTLE/ PESTEL analysis– Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal, Environmental; PESTEL analysis
  • PESTEL analysis– Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Environmental, Labour (Labor) related; PESTEL analysis (rare no references available)
  • PESTLIED analysis– Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, International, Environmental, Demographic
  • STEEPLE analysis – Social/Demographic, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal, Ethical
  • SLEPT analysis – Social, Legal, Economic, Political, Technological
  • STEPE analysis – Social, Technical, Economic, Political, and Ecological
  • ETPS analysis – Economic, Technical, Political and Social – Scanning the business environment

Choose the acronym that most suits you or your organization.


Next Step in a PESTLE analysis

When you have identified the factors that may impact your organization, in column 2 list HOW they would impact on your organization.  When this is complete, in column 3 indicate the extent to which each factor is a risk.

As a rule of thumb, for every HIGH risk you identify you should have at least 10 MEDIUM and 20 LOW risk item.  If you identify more high risks than low risks it may be worth re-visiting your thoughts on what may or may not impact your organization.  Then look at the relative importance and implication of each factor.

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When you have done this you are ready to start to populate a SWOT analysis (see below).


Action Planning

When you have collated the relevant data you need to develop an action plan with SMART objectives (Specific measurable achievable relevant time-bound or SMARTER objectives)



PESTLE Analysis on an HR department or other internal function

While the PEST or PESTLE analysis is primarily aimed at looking at the external environment of an organization, many HR courses ask students to use the PEST or PESTLE analysis model to look at their own function.  In this context we need to imagine that the department (HR) is an organization in its own right and look outside.  Factors to include in your analysis may include the following:

  • Political
    • What is the culture of the organization,
    • How is the HR function viewed by other functions?
    • Who are the political champions of HR (or its adversaries)?
    • Shareholder views
  • Economic
    • What is the budgetary position of the department,
    • Is more money available?
    • Are our customers likely to spend more or less money on the services we offer?
    • What is happening to the financial status of the organization
    • Interest rates
    • Inflation
    • Salary trends in the sector
  • Sociological
    • Other departmental attitudes to HR
    • Population shifts (age profile)
    • Education
    • Fads
    • Diversity
    • Immigration/emigration
    • Health
    • Living standards
    • Housing trends
    • Fashion & role models
    • Age profile
    • Attitudes to career
  • Technological
    • What changes may be coming our way?
    • What new technology/ systems,
    • How do we record attendance, performance? how might this change?
    • Use of and encourage home working?
    • Communications technologies
    • changes of technology that will increase/ reduce the need for recruitment
    • changes to HR software
  • Legal
    • What is happening in our sector that will impact what we do?
    • Minimum wage,
    • Working time,
    • Food stuffs,
    • Under 18 working,
    • Occupational/ industrial Training etc.
    • What changes will impact the services of the organization
  • Environmental
    • Staff morale
    • Staff engagement
    • Need to reduce storage needs
    • Management attitudes (inside dept/ function)
    • Organizational culture


This is only a sample of the types of issues you may include. Use the topics listed in the template above to give you ideas and inspire you, just relate them to the rest of your organization and your ‘customers’.

NEW page on PESTLE analysis for schools and education

On to SWOT analysis

To take the PESTLE analysis forward you can integrate the results into your SWOT.

The outputs from the BIR/ SWOT will provide you with your internal strengths and weaknesses.

Have a look at the HIGH impacts from the PESTLE.  Some will be positive in nature, others will be negative. List these on your SWOT analysis under OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS.

The PESTLE model is a useful environmental scan as part of a diagnostic process. The PESTLE analysis tool can be used in association with the Business Improvement Review (BIR) – a highly structured and holistic SWOT tool.  The PESTLE models can help to identify the context in which a business operates and provide a context for change.  A PESTLE analysis can provide a valuable agenda upon which to use a Business Improvement Review (BIR) to help identify the strengths and weaknesses (SWOT) of an organization, as apart of an organizational change process. Click here for more information. Need to write SMART objectives? Need to use Management Models

Have you found this page of value? Need more details/ ideas? Your feedback is welcomed.

Based upon information from many sources. No copyright over the model or acronyms are assumed. This page is provided for educational purposes only. RapidBI Ltd cannot accept any responsibility for the actions taken using this or any of the tools provided on this site. Please note this page is updated on a regular basis.  The more feedback we get the more we will develop this and similar pages for people studying CIPD and other HR and management programmes. CTP, CPP etc

A PESTLE analysis is a simple but effective tool that is often overlooked in practical business planning activities.


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  1. Blog post – PEST/ PESTLE Analysis Tool – History & Templates

  2. Deita Rolano says:

    RT @RapidBI: Blog post – PEST/ PESTLE Analysis Tool – History & Templates

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