November 19, 2014

IDEA Dictionary: What is a UNSPSC?

When dealing with data, and all related terminology, you may feel like you’re trying to speak a foreign language. In the interest of keeping things clear and simple, we will introduce commonly-used terms in each newsletter that will help you navigate the data shorthand and learn the lingo. This week, we bring you: UNSPSC. 

A UNSPSC is an 8-digit code from the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC)® global product code set. This code must be provided for each product in the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW).

The UNSPSC® taxonomy, or classification system, allows for the categorization of products in multiple different industries. This global standard was developed in 1998 through a joint effort between the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation and the United Nations, and is now owned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In 2003, the UNDP appointed a small department within GS1 US, an international standards development association, to manage the code set. Today, GS1 US manages all code change requests, revisions, and updates to the UNSPSC® taxonomy.

A product’s eight-digit UNSPSC within this global code set is made up of four pairs of digits representing four different category levels, moving from the most general to the most specific:

1. Segment: The logical collection of families (see below) for analytical purposes. 

2. Family: A group of commonly recognized and interrelated commodities.

3. Class: A group of commodities sharing a common use or function.

4. Commodity: A group of substitutable products or services (referred to as “Category Code” in the electrical industry).  

IDEA’s Electrical Attribute Schema[1] is a category and attribute hierarchy, or categorization system, based on the full UNSPSC® code set. IDEA represents the wholesale electrical industry for UNSPSC® development at GS1 US, and the Electrical Attribute Schema is available to IDEA customers only.

If you have any questions regarding the meaning of “UNSPSC,” or any other IDW terms, please contact your Data Management Specialist. Requests for future definitions can be sent to


[1] This linked resource was developed when Schema 3.0 was in use. However, the information provided is still relevant to today’s Schema 4.0.