Forest biomass harvesting guidelines help ensure the ecological sustainability of forest residue harvesting for bioenergy and bioproducts, and hence contribute to social license for a growing bioeconomy. Guidelines, typically voluntary, provide a means to achieve outcomes often required by legislation, and must address needs related to local or regional context, jurisdictional compatibility with regulations, issues of temporal and spatial scale, and incorporation of appropriate scientific information. Given this complexity, comprehensive reviews of existing guidelines can aid in development of new guidelines or revision of existing ones. We reviewed 32 guidelines covering 43 jurisdictions in the USA, Canada, Europe and East Asia to expand upon information evaluated and recommendations provided in previous guideline reviews, and compiled a searchable spreadsheet of direct quotations from documents as a foundation for our review. Guidelines were considered in the context of sustainable forest management (SFM), focusing on guideline scope and objectives, environmental sustainability concerns (soils, site productivity, biodiversity, water and carbon) and social concerns (visual aesthetics, recreation, and preservation of cultural, historical and archaeological sites). We discuss the role of guidelines within the context of other governance mechanisms such as SFM policies, trade regulations and non-state market-driven (NSMD) standards, including certification systems. The review provides a comprehensive resource for those developing guidelines, or defining sustainability standards for market access or compliance with public regulations, and/or concerned about the sustainability of forest biomass harvesting. We recommend that those developing or updating guidelines consider (i) the importance of well-defined and understood terminology, consistent where possible with guidelines in other jurisdictions or regions; (ii) guidance based on locally relevant research, and periodically updated to incorporate current knowledge and operational experience; (iii) use of indicators of sensitive soils, sites, and stands which are relevant to ecological processes and can be applied operationally; and (iv) incorporation of climate impacts, long-term soil carbon storage, and general carbon balance considerations when defining sustainable forest biomass availability. Successful implementation of guidelines depends both on the relevance of the information and on the process used to develop and communicate it; hence, appropriate stakeholders should be involved early in guideline development.