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International agreements such as the Kyoto protocol and Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), as well as, criteria and indicator processes require reports on the status of nations’ forests. Any comparison of the current status and trends of forest resources among nations presumes that the nations’ applied definitions and concepts produce comparable estimates of the status of forests. In spite of this, the FAO has already collected global information for 60 years and made noticeable efforts in creating common definitions, but forest related data are still collected using diverse definitions, even regarding basic concepts such as forest and forest area. A simple consequence is that the cross-countries estimates are not comparable. The reasons behind the differences in the definitions are diverse histories, and sometimes different use of forests. In an ideal case, national forest inventories should fulfil both national and international needs. In addition to the FAO’s Forest Resources Assessment process, other efforts are made to assess the status of forests in European countries, e.g. European Forest Information and Communication System (EFICS). EFICS produced reports about forest inventories but does not suggest any common definition or method to convert estimates from one definition to another one. This article presents principles and methods to create commonly acceptable and adoptable definitions for forest inventories. The principles and methods are demonstrated using two examples: the reference definitions of forest and growing stock. The article is based on the work of COST Action E43 (http://www.metla.fi/eu/cost/e43/).