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The equipment is meant to reduce, avoid and eliminate emissions into the environment or help use resources in a less harmful manner. 3.1 billion euros were spent for wastewater management, such as for neutralization and sewage treatment plants. Climate protection placed second, at 2.7 billion euros. This includes taking energy efficiency measures. There were addition major investments in waste management and air pollution control. Although industrial investment in environmental protection fell by 2.1% in 2016 compared to the previous year, the Federal Statistical Office maintains that this is due to a large one-time investment by utility companies in 2015.

In a 2017 study , the Institute for Transformative Sustainability Research (IASS) examined the effects that the digitization of industrial production has on environmental protection. Most of the employees surveyed in Germany felt that resource efficiency will gain importance in the future. They also predicted a steady or increasing demand for energy. On the other hand, in China, where the survey was also carried out, a considerably lower need for energy was forecast thanks to digitization. According to lead author Grischa Beier, one explanation for this could be that many German companies have already implemented energy efficiency measures: "This makes further potential savings more difficult to realize."