“Sustainability” — like “green” — is one of those buzz words whose meanings can slip and slide, depending on whether a company is serious about doing something truly beneficial for the environment, or just wants to score feel-good marketing points.

An initiative sponsored by Monheim, Germany-based Bayer CropScience should go a long way toward making sure “sustainability” actually means something.

At the opening session of the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas April 22, Bayer announced it would donate $1.1 million to United Fresh for the purpose of creating the Center for Global Produce Sustainability.

Among other things, the center will help the fresh produce industry build partnerships and define just what it means by “sustainability,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh’s president and chief executive officer.

The work done by the center also is likely to inject healthy doses of realism and accountability into sustainability efforts.

Thanks to Bayer, the chances are now greater that industry decisions related to sustainability will be pragmatic, rooted in science and less likely to impose undue financial burden on companies.

One note of caution: The center should find common ground with a similar group already in existence — the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops — and not duplicate or compromise its efforts.

If the creation of the Center for Global Produce Sustainability means that one day, hopefully soon, “sustainability” contains the phrases “good for the earth” and “good for business” in its definition, it will have been money well spent.