What are commodity codes?

Commodity codes are standard classification codes for products and services used to detail where money is spent within a company. Using these codes tells Procurement Services what kinds of items are purchased most, so we can build better contracts to serve your needs.

How does the UW use commodity codes and why are they important?

The UW uses UNSPSC Commodity Codes

Commodity codes allow us to look at what is spent in departments and compare it with peer institutions.  Are you paying the same price as the department next door?  Is our peer institution getting a better rate? If so, why?

How do these codes help you?

Better contracts mean better pricing from our suppliers, and hopefully, better service.  Commodity codes let us review rates for each supplier, as well as suppliers offering the same exact product, and make contractual changes to give the UW the best possible price. You’ll see more contracts to purchase from, a dedicated contract specialist for purchases at the supplier, and the best pricing we can obtain.

Finding Commodity Codes

Commodity Codes are devised of several different levels with varying degrees of detail in a set hierarchy.  The top most category (called Segment) defines the overall type of code.  Underneath the Segment is the Family category that defines the code further. So a code beginning with 4412 is for Office Supplies.  Commodity Codes can drill down all the way to a specific code within the initial category, such as a code just for pencils.  The more numbers behind the original code (not including zeros), the more detailed the code.

Example: 44-12-19-03

44120000 - Office Equipment and supplies

44121900 - Ink and Lead Refills

44121903 - Pen refills

We recommend that departments select a code that represents the item you are purchasing using the first 4-digits of a code followed by four zeros.  In the example above, if you were paying for pen refills you should select 44120000.  It is not necessary to use code 44121903 that specifies pen refills. 


Commodity Code Lists

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of commodity codes available in Ariba. See the Quick Links to the right for the an Excel spreadsheet containing these codes. Note the hierarchy tabs at the bottom.  See How to Use the UNSPSC spreadsheet for helpful tips.


*Helpful Tips:

  • Each commodity code has a suggested account code associated with it. If the recommended account code doesn't fit for your payment, simply change the account code to what you want to use.
  • If the code you are looking for isn't found on the list, try searching by a single keyword that best describes the purchase. (Examples: solvents, supplies, associations, etc.)
  • We recommend using the first four digits followed by four zeros when searching the commodity code in Ariba by number.