Apart from in Germany and Austria, corporate participation in the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) has remained sluggish and far behind involvement in ISO14001. Given the lack of response in most EU member states, the key issue for the current EMAS revision is to increase incentives for companies to join the scheme. One of the proposals in this respect is to encourage member states to consider a lighter regulatory touch for EMAS participants. The aim of this article is to assess the extent to which encouraging regulatory relief may contribute to an increase in the number of EMAS registered companies. For this purpose the regulatory relief already offered to EMAS registered (and ISO14001 certified) companies in France, Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom is described and analysed. Based on this experience, the central conclusion of the article is that regulatory relief can increase participation in EMAS, but that to do so it must be granted exclusively to EMAS registered companies, and that ideally such relief should be substantial and integrated into a comprehensive voluntary policy approach aimed at altering the traditional relationship between government and industry. However, given that some countries treat EMAS registration and ISO14001 certification as equivalent, with respect to regulatory relief, even those deregulation measures that fulfil the above conditions may lead to an increase in ISO14001 certifications rather than EMAS registrations.