Normative judgments on sustainability underpin concepts that shape the supply scenarios of timber consumption. The modern understanding of sustainable forest management is shaped by a diverse spectrum of social demands, going beyond the principle of sustainable yield management. Rival stakeholders compete to incorporate their ideas and interpretations of sustainable forest management into policy institutions. Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) have emerged as one of the dominant stakeholders in the forest-based sector. We set out to explore ENGO-specific conceptualizations of sustainable forest management and investigate differences in understanding among various ENGOs. By conducting a frame analysis of ENGO press releases, we identified two master frames: environmental justice and environmentalist frames. A difference in the emphasis placed on procedural and distributive justice as well as a different standpoint in the commons versus commodity debate emerged as the main divergences between the master frames. The results of our study demonstrate how the differences between the master frames underpin different conceptualizations of sustainable forest management. On the one hand, the ENGOs associated with the environmental justice master frame advocate for the broader implementation of community forest management based on power-sharing. On the other hand, the ENGOs associated with the environmentalist master frame promote a wide range of approaches associated with ecosystem management and social forestry paradigms. Moreover, the ENGOs associated with the environmentalist master frame challenge the concept of sustainable forest management as defined by the Helsinki and Montreal process by advocating for ecosystem management. The ENGOs associated with the environmental justice master frame reject the mainstream concept of sustainable forest management in any guise. Future research on ethical issues underlying forestry concepts may provide more conceptual and operational clarity for both forest managers and policy-makers.
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