Women in Forestry: Shabnam Sanaei

Shabnam Sanaei

Director, Bio-Innovation and Technology, Canfor

Meet Shabnam Sanaei, Director of Bio-Innovation and Technology at Canfor. The Bio-Innovation Group is a new division at Canfor, and its mandate is to ‘unlock the full value’ of each log by diversifying the business into bio-based solutions – including biofuels, biomaterials and biochemicals – from woody biomass to support a low carbon future. Woody biomass is any wood material (chips, bark, sawdust) that can’t be used for lumber products.

Shabnam explains that only 50 per cent of a log can be converted into high-quality, high value lumber products, and the other 50 per cent – known as residuals – are mostly used for either pulp and paper or as a low-value fuel source. She believes that they can do better though and can get fuller and better value by converting by-products into sustainable bioproducts instead of burning them. For instance, woody biomass can be turned into biocomposites which are biodegradable and can be used as a replacement for fossil-based plastics for different applications, including green construction.

As the director of this group, Shabnam is responsible for identifying opportunities for Canfor in the bioproducts space and then evaluating them to see which ones would be the right match for company. Canfor sees it as a huge opportunity to make a significant positive impact on climate change as a producer of natural climate solutions.

With a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, she has more than 14 years of working experience in project management, business development, innovation, R&D, strategic decision making and consulting in the forestry, bioeconomy, oil & gas and petrochemical sectors. Although she’s worked across many different sectors, she is really enjoying her work in the forest industry because of the opportunities to contribute to a more sustainable future, which is more in line with her interests and values.

Shabnam would love to see more women join the sector. “It’s an incredible industry because, while it’s already a bio-based business, it’s also a great platform for future bioproducts. There’s a lot of opportunity to overcome challenges, contribute to improvements, and pursue opportunities we might not yet imagine,” says Shabnam.