Our starting point in this conceptual paper is the assumption that place-based approaches can contribute to the sustainable development of communities and regions. In order to enhance sustainable development, adaptations to vulnerabilities and unsustainability require a more place-based approach, using local resources, people’s capacities and the distinctiveness of places for sustainable development. Our aim is to understand how processes of sustainable place-shaping are influenced by human values, rooted in culture. Culture is constructed and plays a mediating role between people and their environment, influencing people’s intentions, way of life, sense of place, practices, norms and rules. In its variety, culture is one of the sources as well as an outcome of distinctiveness between places. Transformation to sustainability is not only driven by practices and political structures, but also by beliefs, values, worldviews and paradigms that influence attitudes and actions. The paper shows how values have been interpreted in different ways in various bodies of literature, as abstract principles and in an instrumental way. Values are not self-standing concepts but are intertwined, context-determined, culturally varied and connected to how we see our self and how we perceive our environment. It is argued that development and engagement of participants’ values can build co-creative capacity in place-based development aimed at sustainability. A distinction is made between an economic, intentional and symbolic approach. A value-oriented approach can provide a more in-depth insight into what people appreciate, feel responsible for and are willing to commit to in the context of their place.