Frequently Asked Questions about UNSPSC

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Table of Contents

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.

By 2020, the UNSPSC will replace the Government of Canada’s current system of commodity classification: the Goods and Services Identification Numbers (GSIN).

What are the timelines and scope for UNSPSC implementation?

GSIN codes and UNSPSC codes will run concurrently for a time period, until UNSPSC fully replaces the GSIN in the Government of Canada by 2020.

The GSIN classification, as used by PWGSC, consists of over 5,000 codes. All of these codes will be mapped to UNSPSC. This mapping is intended for use across the Government of Canada. The concordance between the GSIN and UNSPSC will be shared by PWGSC through, and will assist departments in transitioning to UNSPSC.

Once implemented, UNSPSC will only apply to new procurement records – historical data will not be converted to UNSPSC. They will retain the GSIN codes.

Will access to the UNSPSC be free and open?

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

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) Please note: historical records using GSIN codes prior to the implementation of UNSPSC will not be migrated to UNSPSC. During a transition period, users will be able to search using GSIN codes or the UNSPSC until final implementation of UNSPSC in 2020.

Will government buyers use UNSPSC?

Government buyers will use UNSPSC to identify goods and services in solicitation documents using the Tender Management Application (TMA). PWGSC Acquisitions program buyers will continue to use GSIN codes in the Automated Buyer Environment (ABE) even after full adoption of UNSPSC. Any system that replaces ABE will use UNSPSC.

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 Defence (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: