SIFO is a non-bias governmental institute that conducts consumer research and testing, and was established in 1939. The board of directors is appointed by the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, which also provides the basic funding. SIFO currently has a staff of 50. The scientific staff is comprised of researchers and other highly qualified personnel from social and natural sciences. The main disciplines are sociology, anthropology, political science and economy. SIFO's projects are organized into four categories: household economy, consumer culture, environment, market and politics.
SIFO is the only institute in Norway solely concerned with consumer research, and as such is responsible for developing expertise on the relevant fields. Importance is placed on research as well as the dissemination of information to various authorities, consumer-oriented institutions, research and scientific institutions, and in private industry. SIFO participates in several Nordic projects, first and foremost under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers, among others through the committee of leading government officials concerned with consumer affairs (EK-Konsument Ämbetsmannskomité). The Institute is a member of the Consumers International (CI) which is an international consumer movement. Furthermore, SIFO participates in the work of international standardisation. SIFO has been very active within the 5thFP and 6thFP of the EU, both as coordinator and participant.
The area of consumption and the environment is currently a major field of interest at SIFO. The Research Council and the framework programs of the EU are the most important source of finance along with the Ministry for Children and Family Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment who are also important associates. The latter is closely engaged with the project "Green Household Budget", which is a green alternative to SIFO's Standard Budget for Consumption Expenditure. The main approach is to discuss consumer behaviour within the political and economic framework created by political authorities and businesses.