Get Stihl chainsaws out of the rainforest!

A logger with a Stihl chainsaw Clearing the rainforest: loggers around the world use Stihl chainsaws. (© J. Sutton-Hibbert)
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German chainsaw manufacturer Stihl is making itself an accomplice to the illegal destruction of rainforests in Malaysia: the distribution of Stihl equipment there is handled by KTS Group, an opaque web of timber and palm oil companies notorious for running roughshod across the land of indigenous peoples.

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To: Stihl Executive Board Chairman Bertram Kandziora; Supervisory Board Chairman Nikolas Stihl

“Stihl’s Malaysian partner KTS is involved in the illegal clearing of rainforest in Sarawak. Tell Stihl to cut its business ties to KTS immediately.”

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The Sungai Lijan river is a scene of destruction: “Isotimber was illegally felling trees here,” explains activist Sandak Mandang of the Iban people: “We drove the loggers out in 2014.” He brought us here in a small boat, to a point where an unpaved track extending kilometers deep into the rainforest meets the water. The indigenous people are now taking Isotimber, a KTS subsidiary, to court.

“We are going to win the struggle for our forest,” says Matek Geram of SADIA, an indigenous organization.

KTS is also leaving a trail of destruction in highly biodiverse peat forests. Its subsidiary Bintulu Lumber Development (BLD) cleared up to 14,000 hectares of peatland – the habitat of the endangered proboscis monkey – for oil palm plantations. Residents of the community of Kampung Tutus are suing the company for felling trees on their land for plantations without their permission.

Stihl and KTS – a personal friendship

In 2012, company patriarch Hans Peter Stihl and KTS CEO Dato Henry Lau posed for a photo in the Borneo Post, a daily paper also belonging to KTS. The businessmen praised their strong partnership over the past 44 years: “along the way of shared success, friendship blossomed,” the paper gushed. The next Stihl generation, Nikolas, also paid his respects to Henry Lau on his first trip to Sarawak.

Since the relationship of Stihl und KTS is also personal, it is highly highly unlikely that the Germans are unaware of their complicity in the destruction of rainforest in Malaysia.

Tell Stihl to do everything possible to prevent illegal deforestation by cutting its business ties to KTS and similar companies.


In the town of Sibu, a Stihl dealer spoke candidly to Rainforest Rescue activists and admitted that the chainsaw business was slowing down because the forest is all but gone. However, a new product was selling well: a cutter for harvesting oil palm fruit. First Stihl profited from the destruction of forests – and now from the plantations.

In 2014, Stihl’s sales exceeded €3 billion for the first time. In February 2016, Executive Board Chairman Bertram Kandziora announced investments of one billion euros, to include a factory in the Philippines.

In Malaysia, Stihl is said to have a market share of 70 percent. KTS plays a key role for sales in the states of Sarawak and Sabah. KTS is also the Stihl distributor for the Sultanate of Brunei.

The KTS Group is an opaque web of companies and investments. Members of the Lau family, in particular Henry Lau, are virtually omnipresent, either as board members or shareholders.

Bintulu Lumber Development (BLD) is the focus of a petition launched by Rainforest Rescue in September 2015. The issue at the time was the illegal clear-cutting of 14,000 hectares of peat forest for oil palm plantations. According to the company’s 2014 annual report, Henry Lau holds a 39.2 percent stake, while Robert Lau holds 36.48 percent.


To: Stihl Executive Board Chairman Bertram Kandziora; Supervisory Board Chairman Nikolas Stihl

Dear Mr. Kandziora,
dear Mr. Stihl,

Your company works closely with the KTS Group, the distributor for your chainsaws and palm cutters in Malaysia.

KTS’s corporate web, which is controlled by the Lau family, includes Isotimber, a company accused of illegal logging on the land of the Iban. The indigenous people is therefore suing Isotimber.

Bintulu Lumber Development (BLD), a further company belonging to KTS, recently clear-cut thousands of hectares of ecologically vital peat forest near the town of Sibu. Residents of the community of Kampung Tutus are suing the company for felling trees on their land for plantations without their permission.

Rainforest Rescue activists inspected the Isotimber and BLD clearings and collected evidence together with local environmentalists and human-rights advocates.

Stihl chainsaws are used by loggers the world over – for both legal and illegal logging. Stihl must do everything possible to prevent illegal deforestation. We call on you to cut your business ties to KTS immediately.

Kind regards,

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