The effective implementation of sustainable forest management depends largely on carrying out forest operations in a sustainable manner. Climate change, as well as the increasing demand for forest products, requires a re-thinking of forest operations in terms of sustainability. In this context, it is important to understand the major driving factors for the future development of forest operations that promote economic, environmental and social well-being. The main objective of this paper is to identify important issues concerning forest operations and to propose a new paradigm towards sustainability in a changing climate, work and environmental conditions. Previously developed concepts of forest operations are reviewed, and a newly developed concept – Sustainable Forest Operations (SFO), is presented. Five key performance areas to ensure the sustainability of forest operations include: (i) environment; (ii) ergonomics; (iii) economics; (iv) quality optimization of products and production; and (v) people and society. Practical field examples are presented to demonstrate how these five interconnected principles are relevant to achieving sustainability, namely profit and wood quality maximization, ecological benefits, climate change mitigation, carbon sequestration, and forest workers' health and safety. The new concept of SFO provides integrated perspectives and approaches to effectively address ongoing and foreseeable challenges the global forest communities face, while balancing forest operations performance across economic, environmental and social sustainability. In this new concept, we emphasize the role of wood as a renewable and environmentally friendly material, and forest workers' safety and utilization efficiency and waste management as additional key elements of sustainability.