The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) aims to function as taxonomy of products and services sold through e-commerce platforms the world over. Adopting this methodology may also work well in improving spending analysis, making procurement more cost effective, and exploiting existing e-commerce opportunities in the best possible manner.

What is UNSPSC?

UNSPSC functions as a global multi-sector open standard that helps in classifying products and services accurately. This system of classification gives you the ability to analyze expenditure at grouping levels according to your requirements. Moving up or down this hierarchical coding system lets you view more or less detail, as required in carrying out an analysis.

A UNSPSC code is made of four hierarchical levels. Two decimal digits represent each level. An option to add two more digits exists, giving you the ability to distinguish between retail and wholesale.

  • The first two numbers represent the Segment.
  • The second set of two numbers identifies the Family.
  • The third set of two numbers denotes the Class.
  • The last two numbers pinpoint to the Commodity.

Businesses that use the UNSPSC classification system simplify how their customers find and purchase their products or services. It also helps brings uniformity across a business, working as a link between different departments and divisions.

The UNSPSC codeset is made available in multiple languages, which include:

  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Norwegian
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Swedish

Non-members may download a PDF version of the codeset from the UNSPSC website for free. Members get to opt for a paid version in Excel as well.

Organization in Charge of UNSPSC

UNSPSC was developed through collaboration between the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Dun & Bradstreet. All rights to the UNSPSC are owned by UNDP. As code manager, GS1 US is currently responsible for maintaining the integrity of the code schema and for ensuring compliance. It also oversees aspects such as revision projects, requests for code changes, issuing regular updates, and communicating with members.

History of UNSPSC

Creation of UNSPSC dates back to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Inter-agency Procurement Services Office (IAPSO) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation. This took place in 1998.

Peter R. Benson was responsible for the development of the first version of the UNSPSC. The Electronic Commerce Code Management Association (ECCMA) was formed in 1999. It managed and promoted the UNSPSC system until March 2003. UNDP appointed GS1 US as code manager in May 2003. ECCMA continues developing the Open Technical Dictionary (eOTD) as well as the international standards ISO 8000 and ISO 22745.

According to set policies, at least one new version of UNSPSC is released every year.

Example Codes

Here are a few UNSPSCs.

  • 10101501
  • 10101502
  • 10101506

In these examples, “10000000” represents “Live plant and animal material and accessories and supplies.”

“10100000” denotes “Live animals.”

“10101500” refers to “Livestock.”

The codes, in their entirety, represent the following animals:

  • 10101501 – Cats
  • 10101502 – Dogs
  • 10101506 – Horses