The development of standards and guidelines to secure sustainable forest management at different geographical scales has expanded greatly during the past fifteen years. Most of these efforts, however, have been formulated for natural forests only; those designed specifically for forest plantations are relatively few. The global forest plantation area is expanding rapidly, with obvious positive and negative impacts on biodiversity. We characterize the key concepts of biodiversity in tropical and subtropical forest plantations and present an analysis of how these elements are covered in the eight principal operational standards and guidelines for sustainable plantation forestry. We also examine the applicability of standards and guidelines in plantations established and managed under different initial settings. The results indicate that the standards and guidelines address certain key elements of biodiversity comprehensively, meanwhile others are ignored or receive only slight attention. There is also substantial variation between the sets in their nature (performance- vs. process-based), scope, congruity in concepts and hierarchy, and specificity. The standards and guidelines seldom take into account the varying initial settings for plantation establishment and the consequent variation in critical factors in biodiversity conservation and management. We recommend that standards and guidelines should be developed so as to pay more attention to the type and operating environment of plantations, to cover all key factors of biodiversity, and to consider building closer relationships between the social and ecological aspects of biodiversity.