Frequently Asked Questions about UNSPSC

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What is the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC)?

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a classification of products and services developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is an open, global, multi-sector standard and is internationally used by industry and government in procurement to identify the commodity acquired, and to support financial analysis of goods and services (i.e. how much is spent, on which products, and from which suppliers). For more information visit the UNSPSC website.

Why was UNSPSC chosen to replace GSIN?

GSIN is Canada’s current domestic commodity code classification system. As a domestic system, GSINs are not universally recognized and cannot be used to communicate with our trading partners.

UNSPSC is a universally recognized and centrally managed code-set. It is crowd-sourced and relies on continuous input and feedback from members (governments as well as in the private sector) to keep the codes up to date and current. It is not managed by any government and contributes to open governance in the realm of procurement.

What are the timelines for UNSPSC implementation?

Starting in 2021, GSIN codes and UNSPSC codes will run concurrently, until UNSPSC fully replaces the GSIN in the Government of Canada. Departments will be allowed to use either GSIN or UNSPSC when classifying and reporting on procurement items but only until major investments/upgrades occur to their departmental finance and materiel management systems(DFMS).

What are the benefits of adopting the UNSPSC?

The adoption of the UNSPSC as the new data standard on classification for procurement items will result in the following benefits:

Improved classification structure

Although the GSIN has a hierarchical structure, it uses a dated classification system (or “taxonomy”) that does not reflect many of the ‘newer’ commodity types and predates modern computing. Over time, it has been customized by departments to include non-commodity information, proprietary information, and business functions, resulting in an inconsistent classification system. Furthermore, the structure across the three main categories of Goods, Service, and Construction vary as they originate from three different classification systems. In contrast, the UNSPSC has a strict classification structure and does not incorporate proprietary or end-use information into the codes. Business functions are added as the last level of the hierarchy, so that the structure of the classification remains consistent.

Ease of sharing through an international standard

Consistent classification of procurement items across the Government of Canada will help to increase the quality of information about expenditures, improving the management of goods and services, financial information and the interoperability between departments. The UNSPSC is an internationally recognized coding structure used in industry, making it appropriate for open data initiatives.

Centralized governance

The UNSPSC is governed by GS1 US, in accordance with input from UNSPSC members for the development and direction of the classification. The UNSPSC is available in many languages, including English and French, and is regularly updated and maintained. The central management of the UNSPSC results in one authoritative classification system that can used and shared internationally.

How will suppliers use UNSPSC on

Similar to the current GSIN Code, businesses will use UNSPSC to:

  • Identify goods/services they sell.
  • Navigate across all Procurement Data on (e.g. Tenders, Contract History, and Standing Offers and Supply Arrangements).

Will government buyers use UNSPSC?

As PWGSC starts to use the Electronic Procurement Solution (EPS) for their procurement activities, Acquisitions program buyers who are part of the pilot groups will use UNSPSC to identify goods and services in solicitation documents. PWGSC Acquisitions program buyers who are not part of EPS. Pilot groups will continue to use GSIN codes in the Automated Buyer Environment (ABE) even after full adoption of UNSPSC.

Which version of UNSPSC will be used by the Government of Canada?

Roughly 7,600 codes of version 21 of the UNSPSC have been selected to be used by the Government of Canada. Departments who have adopted other versions of UNSPSC will be provided with guidance on how to transition to version 21.

Will there be a UNSPSC to GSIN mapping?

Yes, a simplified concordance table that maps UNSPSC codes with the highest level of a GSIN has been developed. This means that not all GSIN were mapped to UNSPSC. Instead a holistic approach was used to select codes from the UNSPSC v.21 list that the Government of Canada purchases. There are approximately 7,700 codes identified. In some cases, there is a one-to-one map but, in many cases, there are more UNSPSC to trade agreement codes.

Who is the business owner of UNSPSC within the Government of Canada?

The Business Analytics Services Directorate (BASD) at PWGSC is the data owner of UNSPSC. This group is responsible for trade reporting, open data as well as providing interpretative advice and guidance on UNSPSC codes. Inquiries can be addressed to TPSGC.PADSAAUNSPSC-APBASDUNSPSC.PWGSC [at] ( AP BASD UNSPSC (PWGSC)).

Will the UNSPSC code set be updated?

PWGSC will continue to develop, manage and share the UNSPSC codes in a fair and open process. Feedback will be welcomed and the list of UNSPSC codes may be updated at a minimum on a quarterly basis via

What should I do if I cannot find a suitable UNSPSC?

If you find that your commodities have not been adequately captured in the existing map, you are encouraged to contact TPSGC.PADSAAUNSPSC-APBASDUNSPSC.PWGSC [at] ( AP BASD UNSPSC (PWGSC)) to put in a request. Considerations will be assessed in a fair and open process and the codes may be added or modified in the list.

*A quick note for those procuring Research and Development (R&D):

UNSPSC does not currently contain specific R&D codes. It may be possible to formally request that these codes be included in future iterations of the code-set.

The R&D component of the procurement will need to be specified in the RFP. We will need to focus on what is being procured and then specify trade considerations.

Will access to the Government of Canada’s UNSPSC code set be free and open?

Yes. Once implemented, the UNSPSC code set used by the Government of Canada will be free to download as an open data file without restriction or cost on in the download UNSPSC data section.

Are there implications for trade reporting?

PWGSC will continue to provide procurement reporting data based on trade agreement codes on behalf of the Government of Canada. In short, there will be no negative implications for trade reporting.

Will departments need to map codes within their financial systems?


Can departments continue to publish proactive disclosure data in either GSIN or UNSPSC?

Yes. This option will be available in the interim to ease the Government of Canada’s gradual transition to UNSPSC. For more information, visit the Guidelines on the Proactive Disclosure of Contracts policy on the Treasury Board Site.

Will departments need to change their historical data?

No, this will not be necessary.

How will the change to UNSPSC impact my ability to answer questions related to historical data?

The Government of Canada will use UNSPSC to identify products for procurement activities. Over the course of the transition from GSIN to UNSPSC, reports will have to be run using both GSINs (for historical records) and UNSPSC to capture new data. There will not always be direct one-to-one match.

How does the move to UNSPSC affect some departments’ ability to use NATO Stock Numbers?

The NATO Stock Number is an inventory classification used within the Government of Canada, primarily by the Department of National Defense (DND) and Canadian Coast Guard, to identify the stock of specific materiel goods. In contrast, the GSIN is a demand classification system used by the Government of Canada to identify products and services by category for procurement.

The first component of the 13-digit NATO Stock Number is a 4-character code based on the United States Federal Supply Code (FSC). NATO Stock Numbers are used for goods only; they do not identify the stock/inventory of services. Only Goods GSIN codes are linked to the NATO Stock Number because it shares the common FSC core.

As a result, transitioning from GSIN to UNSPSC will not affect the use of NATO Stock Numbers for inventory classification in Canada. The concordance will allow for the FSC codes to map to UNSPSC and allow for the continued link between GSIN and UNSPSC.

How can I stay informed about the progress of the UNSPSC initiative?

We encourage you to visit the site frequently as we will update the site with new information throughout the transition process. To get the latest updates about the UNSPSC initiative and other procurement-related news items, you may subscribe to the: