Assessing the sustainability of forest management requires having relevant criteria and indicators at both the local and global levels. In many instances, the lack of sufficiently detailed figures obliges forest managers to resort to precautionary principles in order to avoid irreversible resource degradation.
The design of criteria and indicators aimed at formulating structured definitions of sustainable forest management as well as consensus and assessment tools, is taken into account by many international bodies. Even if the complexity and diversity of circumstances restrict their field of geographical application, these criteria and indicators will play a positive role in improving sustainability as long as they lead to reliable standards for measurement and initiatives such as ecolabelling.
Even after ten years of effort to implement ecolabelling, it appears that this initiative will not meet global aspirations for improved forest management, particularly in Asia and even in Africa, due to a lack of demand and the small size of markets for such products in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Ecolabelling is also affected by other uncertainties, notably the legitimacy and independence of some organisations and institutions currently operating in this field.
For a number of reasons, it seems that systems of criteria and indicators and ecolabelling schemes will not meet their full potential without a conventional framework such as an international agreement or "forest convention", which contains some legally enforceable mechanisms.