The concept of value is central to the practice and science of ecological management and conservation. There is a well-developed body of theory and evidence that explores concepts of value in different ways across different disciplines including philosophy, economics, sociology and psychology. Insight from these disciplines provides a robust and sophisticated platform for considering the role of social values in ecological conservation, management and research. This paper reviews theories of value from these disciplines and discusses practical tools and instruments that can be utilised by researchers and practitioners. A distinction is highlighted between underlying values that shape people's perception of the world (e.g. altruistic or biospheric value orientations), and the values that people assign to things in the world (e.g. natural heritage, money). Evidence from numerous studies has shown that there are multiple pathways between these values and attitudes, beliefs and behaviours relevant to ecological management and conservation. In an age of increasing anthropogenic impacts on natural systems, recognising how and why people value different aspects of ecological systems can allow ecological managers to act to minimise conflict between stakeholders and promote the social acceptability of management activities. A series of practical guidelines are provided to enable social values to be better considered in ecosystem management and research.