Top index funds are showing significant interest in environmental, social and governance issues, said Bob McCormick, chief policy officer for Glass Lewis, the large proxy advisory services.

“You’ve getting buy-in from senior executives for the first time,” said McCormick, citing from Blackrock and State Street.

He noted a contributing factor to the increased interest in ESG by index fund groups is they have larger investment analyst staffs than they did years ago.

McCormick said sustainability proposals are sometimes receiving 30 percent of the share votes, showing that large index funds are supporting them, not just small ESG mutual funds.

He added a reason index funds have a greater incentive to consider ESG issues than other investors is because they can’t sell their shares short term so they have to focus on long-term environmental and governance matters that could impact the value of their holdings.

The Glass Lewis executive said index funds are scrutinizing governance issues more so than environmental or social ones.

McCormick said the ESG shareholder proposals coming up before companies are better targeted, better written and have better chances of winning support than previously.

His comments came at a seminar Monday on ESG investing at the Council of Institutional Investors annual spring conference in Washington, D.C.

During the session, Erica Lasdon, director of sustainability research at Calvert Investments, one of the oldest families of socially responsible funds, said pressure for sustainability disclosures that used to be applied only on large companies is coming to smaller stocks as well.

She added ESG votes are getting more support across a broader range of companies rather than just energy firms, which were an early prime target.

Lasdon said a wealth of data, particularly big data, is making ESG research on investments easier. However, she said water remains one area corporate ESG information is lacking.

Despite progress, Meredith Miller, chief corporate governance officer for the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, the largest non-government provider of health benefits in the country, said a lot of funds are moving at a glacial pace on ESG.

“There’s a huge amount of movement that needs to happen,” said Miller.